Ford, and a consortium of partners, have received government backing - via a £65 million 5G development fund from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) - to introduce 5G connectivity into its production process for electric vehicles.
A recent study from Juniper Research found that total operator-billed revenue from 5G IoT connections will reach $8 billion by 2024; rising from $525 million in 2020. This is a huge growth of over 1,400% over the next five years, and the report identified the automotive and smart cities sectors as key growth drivers for 5G adoption.
“Connecting today’s shop floor requires significant time and investment,” said Chris White, Ford’s 5GEM project lead. “Present technology can be the limiting factor in reconfiguring and deploying next-gen manufacturing systems. 5G presents the opportunity to transform the speed of launch and flexibility of present manufacturing facilities, moving us towards tomorrow’s plants connected to remote expert support and artificial intelligence.”
Springboard for success
The new project will see Vodafone Business introduce a 5G mobile private network at Ford’s new E:PriME (Electrified Powertrain in Manufacturing Engineering) facility, at the company’s Dunton Campus. The expectation is that the new network will help Ford overcome many of the issues surrounding wireless connectivity in the industrial setting, and it promises reduced delays, wider bandwidth, improved security and reliability, and faster deployment time.
“5G mobile private networks act as a springboard for organisations, allowing them to rethink the way they do business,” said Vinod Kumar, CEO of Vodafone Business. “In this case, MPN technology makes the factory of the future possible. It allows machines and computing power to coordinate in real time, improving precision, efficiency and safety. We’re excited to help Ford plan for the future of its business.”
Ford will focus on the connectivity of the welding machines in the manufacture of electric vehicles. The batteries and electric motors within an EV require around 1,000 welds. For a single EV product, this could generate more than a half a million pieces of data every minute. And by the time installation is complete in the autumn, E:PriME Dunton will have the fastest possible connectivity alongside the consortium’s second network, which will be installed at welding research specialists TWI, based in Cambridge.
“We’re determined to harness this revolutionary technology to boost the productivity and growth of UK industries,” explained Oliver Dowden, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. “We want Britain to be a world leader in 5G, and since 2017 the government has invested millions in ground-breaking testbeds and trials across the country to achieve this.”