i-RooBO Network Forum (i-RooBO) and SoftBank Corporation have created a demonstration site for data collection and remote monitoring and management of production equipment using fifth generation (5G) mobile communication standard and internet of things (IoT). The site is located inside Asia and Pacific Trade Center (ATC), a complex commercial facility in Osaka City, Japan.
The environment was designed for use by various small and medium-sized manufacturing companies that consider introduction of 5G and IoT. This free demonstration site was also developed for companies developing solutions for the manufacturing industry.
The demonstration site utilizes the Industrial Automation Technology Center (IATC) that supports the automation of manufacturing sites operated by i-RooBO within ATC. It also uses the R&D support facility on the 3rd floor and the 5G X LAB OSAKA on the 6th floor.
The 5G X LAB OSAKA is jointly operated by Softbank, i-RooBO, Osaka City, and Osaka Business Development Agency (OBDA). The new lab is used for verification of products and services in 5G communication environment.
Various sensors and IoT devices are connected using production equipment, a programmable logic controller (PLC), and robots in each facility. Data are transferred and stored through direct access to cloud through Softbank’s 5G (Sub6 3.9GHz or millimeter wave 29.1GHz) and SmartVPN closed network service. Customers can perform trial demonstrations and product verifications. They can try data collection and visualization for facilities, devices, and equipment, using 5G and IoT. Actual operation of solutions was also confirmed.
An experiment on verification of factory visualization solution using IoT system and identification of issues is being carried out from November 29, 2021 to February 28, 2022. It is the first trial demonstration using this environment. It is performed by Osaka-based Bridge Solution and Three Up Technology, Inc., Bridge Solution is a production technology consulting company and a regular member of i-RooBO, while Three Up develops and installs industrial monitoring devices and systems using IoT.
Among the specific devices includes a temperature sensor, a vibration sensor, an environment sensor measuring temperature, humidity, and light intensity, and a power sensor installed in the mold production equipment prepared for demonstration at IATC. A Siemens edge computer in the control panel is used as a gateway to collect information on each sensor. The computer is connected to the cloud using 5G bands of 3.9GHz and 29.1GHz and closed network service SmartVPN. A monitor screen visually displays data that has been securely collected and linked.
The lab will demonstrate a system that allows customers to experience remote work support solutions using augmented reality (AR). Here, IATC is regarded as a manufacturing site and IATC-Lab is regarded as a remote office and/or head office. Events at the manufacturing site are shared in real time. Work instructions are given from IATC-Lab to a field worker in IATC. The worker works hands-free as instructed in AR, and is monitored at IATC-lab through the OT visualization screen, control panel camera, and viewpoint image of worker’s HoloLens.
The lab can also demonstrate the number of products and cycles as well as the operating status of production site transferred directly from Mitsubishi Electric’s PLC to a computer via Ethernet. This will be proposed as a factory visualization solution that utilizes IoT systems. It will also demonstrate a wiring-less factory of Sumitomo Electric Industries, Ltd. equipped with 5G terminals with an edge processing function for factory IoT.
5G X LAB OSAKA was established in October 2020 as an open lab to support the development of products and services that utilize 5G. The facility allows users to experience development and verification in a 5G environment and demonstrate various use examples of 5G on top of providing business support. The exhibition and experience room of about 240sqm was divided into six areas: manufacturing and construction, retail, medical and healthcare, regions (local government, tourism), broadcasting and entertainment, and multi-industry (surveillance cameras, AI cameras). Each area introduces equipment, systems, and solutions that meet corresponding requests.
In the verification lab of about 40sq.m, systems can be verified for Sub6 3.9GHz, 5G, and 4G 1.7, 2.1, 3.4GHz, and 700MHz in a non-standalone (NSA) environment. It can be used for free and accepts up to three slots per day. Despite the pandemic last year, 300 companies were able to use it in the past year.
Toshio Sakamoto, Chief Executive Officer of i-RooBO Network Forum, says, “As we work to support automation and development human resources for small and medium-sized enterprises, we often hear customers considering the introduction of 5G and IoT and wanting to verify 5G and IoT products. So, together with Softbank, we built a demonstration environment in which we can collect and link data for production equipment using 5G and IoT. Subsequently, we opened it to the manufacturing industry and companies developing solutions for the manufacturing industry. In September, IATC-Lab was opened for human resource development and for verification of robots. We would like to try various things for the realization of a smart factory.”
In line with the construction of a demonstration environment and the start of demonstration and verification services for the manufacturing industry using 5G and IoT, the lab will promote digital transformation (DX) to solve labor shortages in the manufacturing industry. The lab will further focus on providing an environment for users and vendors to jointly develop new businesses.
Softbank conducted a trial demonstration with Sumitomo Electric Industries at Sumitomo Electric Industries Osaka Works from March 26 to May 24, 2021. The experiment aimed to visualize factory work automatically and in real time by video transmission and analysis using 5G and AI. As a result, the human resources required for classifying work and summing up work time have been successfully reduced. In addition, the cause of work delay has been identified based on the analysis results and images, improving the work procedure and efficiency. The results have confirmed that visualization leads to improvement in factory productivity.
“We would like to promote DX in collaboration with i-RooBO as a service that can be used practically in the manufacturing industry, and can be used to respond to various social and corporate issues. We would like to make the demonstration environment into a place for creation of practical services in the 5G era,” according to Softbank.