Enterprises scale private wireless for additional use cases, industrial sites

Private wireless networks and edge technology, combined in one platform, have now evolved to the point of providing enterprises with the best foundation for artificial intelligence (AI)-powered use cases, according to research from Nokia.

Conducted by research firm GlobalData, the 2024 Industrial digitalization report is based on research among among 100 private wireless early adopters and users of industrial edge, devices and applications in the manufacturing, transportation and energy industries in countries including Australia, France, Japan, the UK and the US. It looks to show the benefits in terms of productivity, total cost of ownership, worker safety and sustainability, as well as the use cases to deploy to achieve these benefits.

The study reveals that all interviewed early adopters are using private wireless networks in additional locations or have expanded their use by driving the fast deployment of more use cases in existing locations and lowering the total cost of ownership.

Highlighting the increase in private wireless uses and locations, the study found that compared with the situation in 2022, where many enterprises that had deployed private wireless technology were still at the proof of concept or pilot stage, usually in a single location or single use case, by 2024, almost half of the enterprises interviewed (45%) are already taking advantage of private wireless networks with plans to do more than initially expected. All of the 100 enterprises interviewed have started to roll out private wireless networks to more locations or expanded their use at the original locations for driving wider industrial transformation.

As many as 93% of the respondents achieved return on investment (ROI) using private wireless within 12 months, and 78% reported that they achieved a positive outcome within six months. Some 23% hit their ROI target in just one month. Nokia noted that the data indicated private wireless services have helped businesses achieve such returns by fixing broken processes and reducing the overall cost of doing business.

Almost four in five businesses surveyed experienced a significant improvement in their sustainability efforts, reporting a 10% or more reduction in their emissions after deploying private wireless networks. Enhanced connectivity increased the ability of those surveyed to connect industrial internet of things devices and sensors to better track and monitor their carbon emissions. The use of drone technology reduced the number of truck rolls. This, said Nokia, shows how private wireless technology is leading organisational transformation, not simply digital transformation, enabling tracking and analytics to meet global sustainability objectives.

Edge technology was seen to be playing a foundational role in enabling new and more advanced low-latency use cases that stretch beyond connectivity. Some 39% of the enterprises that deployed private wireless have since implemented an on-premise edge technology or a new selection of industrial devices to power digitisation and support additional technologies such as AI and analytics, with a further 52% planning to do so. In one example cited, the introduction of video analytics to a private wireless network alongside edge-compute resources enabled 75% of businesses to improve efficiency by 10%.

Commenting on the results of the study, Gary Barton, research director of enterprise technology and services at GlobalData, said: “Private wireless technology has clear benefits for connectivity and great ROI. But more is to come with the deployment of AI, new analytics tools and edge platforms. These technologies will help enterprises prepare for the future challenges as they keep driving industrial transformation.”

The survey also highlighted the work of Lufthansa Technik, which deployed private wireless networks for a detailed table inspection of aircraft components, supporting remote maintenance via quick upload of high-quality video from multiple cameras. It has since expanded to a range of use cases such as using edge capabilities to eliminate the need of physically moving server stacks supporting AI analytics near to aircraft engines. 

“The deployment of private wireless networks improved our connectivity from the outset,” said Claudius Noak, IT consultant at Lufthansa Industry Solutions. “It gives us a stable, reliable and secure connection across an extensive area with only a small number of access points, essential for remote table inspection.

“The additional value came from the expansion and integration of new use cases. Since the deployment, we have extended the number of radio locations at the site, with private wireless networks connecting over 50 devices, a number that will soon grow into the hundreds, with the ability to ultimately support over 1,000 connected devices.”

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