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Futurum Tech Webcast – Qualcomm, Schneider Electric, and Capgemini Hoist Private 5G Capabilities to New Levels

In this episode of the Futurum Tech Webcast – Interview Series, we address the topic of 5G private networks innovation and why it is vital to advancing enterprise connectivity. By replacing wired connections with wireless and unifying existing wireless connections, 5G private networks are increasingly simplifying and optimizing digital technology deployment at scale throughout industrial sites.

My guests today are Olivier Coutelou, Group Senior Expert, Schneider Electric, Fotis Karonis, Group Leader 5G & Edge Computing, Capgemini, and George Tsirtsis, Senior Director, Technology, Qualcomm Technologies International, Ltd. Olivier, Fotis, and George are new guests to the show, and incisively share their insights and perspectives on how the companies developed an innovative end-to-end 5G Private Network solution that can transform industrial automation systems.

To start our discussion, Olivier described Schneider Electric activities as they relate to the industrial automation of hoisting systems as well as how the current hoisting product runs, how the connectivity is involved and what are the improvement paths. Next George explained how 5G addressed the connectivity challenges in running the Proof of Concept at Schneider Electric premises plus what is Qualcomm’s strategy as it relates to 5G for industries. Thereafter Fotis described the milestones of the project, what 5G is bringing to the industrial market and what Capgemini’s strategy is in this ecosystem.

Our conversation delved further into the following key topics:

  • Why collaboration is so important to propelling 5G private network capabilities forward.
  • To support innovations in the Hoisting domain, Schneider Electric set up in Grenoble, France a hoisting lab duplicating full hoisting application and helping to validate new solutions.
  • How 5G replacement of cable and optical fiber enables differentiated QoS flows, industrial protocols born on 5G, and the advantages of private disaggregated networks.
  • The way 5G is a real game change by delivering low latency and reliability in full alignment with gaining more flexibility, lower costs, and shorter lead times for factory to production reconfiguration and layout changes.
  • Through highly advanced virtual connectivity, the combined solution can be deployed across diverse industrial and logistic sites.
  • The panel’s favorites for key emerging 5G private network use cases including critical communications, augmented operator, remote assistance, and drones.

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Disclaimer: The Futurum Tech Webcast is for information and entertainment purposes only. Over the course of this webcast, we may talk about companies that are publicly traded and we may even reference that fact and their equity share price, but please do not take anything that we say as a recommendation about what you should do with your investment dollars. We are not investment advisors and we ask that you do not treat us as such.

Transcript:

Ron Westfall: Hello, everyone, and welcome to another episode of the Futurum Tech Webcast. I’m your host, Ron Westfall, research director and senior analyst, Futurum Research.
In this episode, we’re going to talk about hot topics, including private networks. We’re also going to talk about 5G’s role across industrial networks, and we’re going to talk about why partnerships and collaboration are key to driving 5G private networks and so much more.

Joining us today is what I regard as an all-star lineup, consisting of Olivier Coutelou, Schneider Electric. Fotis Karonis, Capgemini, and George Zertsis, Qualcomm. Gentlemen, thanks so much for joining us today and let’s go to our introductions starting with you, Olivier.

Olivier Coutelou: Hello, everybody. Olivier Coutelou, working at Schneider Electric as an innovation project manager. And at the time, I’m in charge of the 5G exploration for industry automation.

Ron Westfall: Thank you, Olivier. And now, Fotis, tell us about yourself and how you came to join Capgemini.

Fotis Karonis: Yeah. Hello, Ron. Thank you for the invitation. Hello, everybody. My name is Fotis Karonis. I am the Capgemini group leader for 5G and Edge computing. And yeah, very pleased because it’s a game changer for the intelligent industry.

Prior to that, I was in the telco industry as a CTIO in mobile for EE, the biggest mobile company in the UK and launching 4G and 5G networks, really great fun. And now the opportunities, what do we do with those networks? How do we ensure that we create incredible change and opportunities for the industries but also for the society as a whole?

Ron Westfall: Wonderful, Fotis. Thank you. And George, tell us about yourself and how you came to join the Qualcomm team.

George Tsirtsis: Yes, hi. Thank you, Ron. This is great. This is George Tsirtsis. I’m senior director of technology in Qualcomm Europe. I represent 5G products of Qualcomm in the European region.

I’ve been in Qualcomm for quite a few years with a R&D background. And more recently in the last few years I have been overseeing 5G deployment of mobile networks in Europe. But now more recently, in the last couple of years I’m looking into verticals like private networks, which is what we’re talking about today. Looking forward to it.

Ron Westfall: Excellent. I believe we all are. And so, let’s jump right in. And let’s start with you, Olivier. And I think folks out there would really like to know if you can please describe Schneider Electric activities. Relate to the industrial automation of hoisting systems.

Olivier Coutelou: Yes. Innovation is in Schneider Electric DNA, which enables us to develop disruptive solutions and hoisting is one of them for several decades.

Slide1
We deploy our integrated autonomous train system in arbor, nuclear plant and steel factories for cold calls product and still hot products.

Slide 4
Our system improves productivity and reduces cost in our environment. To support this innovation in the hoisting domain, we have set up in Grenoble, France an hoisting lab, duplicating full hoisting applications and helping to test and validate new solutions and system improvements.

Ron Westfall: Very good, Olivier. And that’s very helpful and insightful. And that tees up my next question. Now can you explain in simple terms how the current hoisting products run and how the connectivity is involved and what are the improvement paths out there?

Olivier Coutelou: Of course, yes. An autonomous hoisting system is traveling on three axes.

Slide2

The beam is moving on the X-axis, the trolley is moving on the Y-axis and the hoisting tool is moving on the Z-axis.

The automation system is located on the beam so it’s moving with respect to the floor. Wireless communication is required between scatter and POC on the floor and automation system on the beam. This is done today with Wi-Fi for the crane. We have a first challenge: connectivity channel.

On such autonomous cranes, sometimes for special operation, it’s required to take manually the control of the crane from the control room. An operator pilots the crane from the control room and he looks at the scene on a display in the control room. The global latency from the joystick for control to the image and the screen must be below 500 millisecond to be acceptable.

It’s not possible with standard Wi-Fi IP cameras. And so, it requires the use of proprietary, non-IP YRS solutions, unfortunately occupying very large RF bandwidths. Consequently, the number of cranes working in parallel is limited to three. This is the first problem we have.

We have a second connectivity challenge. There is a lot of communication between the automation system and the beam and the remote iOS on the trolley. It’s moving. This is done today with an optical fiber in a festoon. The risk of breaking optical fiber is high and it occurs sometimes. This requires costly maintenance operations. That’s why we decided to invest in 5G for the hoisting with Capgemini and Qualcomm.

Ron Westfall: Thank you, Olivier. And that I think is an opportunity to now turn to George. And George, how did 5G address these limitations that Olivier touched on, particularly in the proof of concept at Schneider Electric premises?

George Tsirtsis: Okay, very good. 5G fundamentally is designed to replace all the communication systems that are used in a system like this. Wireless, proprietary wireless or standard wireless or wired connections that can all be replaced by a single 5G private network. It is one network to rule them all if you like.

What we do in this particular case is that we deployed a ethernet 5G core system, Airspan small cells. Airspan is of course a Qualcomm customer. They use our FSM100 chipset platform for the small cells they put together, which in this case we use the n77 spectrum 3.8 gigahertz. And we combine that with industrial gateways and 5G IP cameras from our devices’ ecosystem.

Slide 3

Now, the first thing we did with this collection of technology is that we replaced all the wireless links that Schneider Electric was using before. The Wi-Fi includes also the unlicensed proprietary system Olivier referred to. And now we’re working on additional flows that are currently using optical fibers.

The most important one of those I would say is the PLC flow. This is a control flow that is used to connect a joystick for the remote control of the crane operation itself. And this kind of flow is very important because it is used all over the industrial floor. It has many uses, many different variations on it.

And the ability to run this kind of load over a 5G network, over a private network, solving all the villain peculiarities of it, the IP addressing problem that it reduces, all these things are very important. And now in our toolkit if you like, for solving these kinds of problems.

Essentially what we managed to do is to prove that we can retrofit a 5G private network into existing industrial automation use cases like crane control, importantly without having to change the architecture of the industrial automation system that is already productized by Schneider Electric.

Ron Westfall: That’s a vast improvement over the legacy implementation. And so, that I think brings up a key question. And that is what is Qualcomm’s strategy as it relates to 5G for industries and why is it so important to collaborate with an industrial actor as well as a global integrator?

George Tsirtsis: Yeah, very good question. Collaboration with very important players like Capgemini on the system integration side and, of course, Schneider Electric as a leading customer are super important at this stage of 5G private network evolution.

Maybe the first thing to say about this is that the 5G private networks are relatively new. As an industry we have been talking about them for a long time. They have been deployed a little bit now, but they’re still at an early stage. And in fact, there is a lot of innovation that needs to come through and a lot of very industry specific and private network specific features that we will see coming out of the ecosystem.

And here, I’m referring to things like ethernet PDU, time synchronous networks, positioning, even aspects of slicing and ultra reliable low latency communications. Again, these are terms that we have been talking about for a long time, but now they’re becoming reality and they need to come into the market for a private network. For us it’s very important to understand what are the mechanics of this and how this will take place.

Now, the other important thing for Qualcomm is that we are very big believers of the horizontal ecosystem. Fundamentally, we supply technology to many OEMs who develop products for the market. And so, we believe in this horizontal play. And we believe that the end customer needs to have choice in terms of 5G core, small cells and of course, the device ecosystem.

To bring these things together, we are doing two very specific things. First on the ecosystem creation. Over a year ago we put together a partnership program in which we bring to our labs, our customer implementations of small cells. And we test them extensively with 5G core implementations from partners. And of course, we do that with the end device ecosystem that we also have access to.

Now, we do this fundamentally and at the basic level to make sure that the 5G connectivity works at a very good performance out of the box when you combine these implementations. But at the same time, since we have all this in our labs, it becomes a natural way for introducing new technologies as they come out of our development and our partners’ development. That’s one, that’s the ecosystem plane.

At the same time we have identified what we think is an important gap in the market in terms of run automation. We are introducing a new product to the market, it’s called Edgewise. It’s a software as a service platform that allows the automation and operation of networks, of private networks in a multi-site way, and also being compatible with multiple run implementations.

And this kind of platform, we were able to showcase it in NWC earlier in the year. We ran it in our own booth, but also in Capgemini booth, where you could monitor from their private networks, being live private networks in the US and Europe, including one in Portugal by Capgemini.

This is the two pieces of the puzzle, ecosystem and the run automation platform that we think is very important for scaling these networks. And so if you like, in summary, we’re trying to create a virtual circle of feature development, testing and preparation for the market. And then working with system integrators and customers to bring this to realization.

Ron Westfall: Thank you, George. I believe automation and an ecosystem approach are essential. And I think this now provides us an opportunity to turn to the third member of our power trio, Fotis. And Fotis. Can you now describe the different milestones of the project? I know folks out there would be very interested in that.

Fotis Karonis: Sure. First of all, it’s a really exciting project. It’s a very complex environment. And that makes even more exciting the potential of bringing innovation and with a 5G private network. And creating the first use cases for the integrated autonomous crane system with Schneider and Qualcomm was a great experience.

The first phase was in a couple of months actually to quickly align on the strategy, then define the goal definition, align on the objectives of the project, what we’re trying to achieve, the project roadmap and the methodology. And the purpose is that we wanted, as George said and Olivier, to make sure that we can first of all, prove the capabilities of the 5G as a sound reliable technology to provide all those data flows, the control flows, the video flows through the same wireless media, if I may call it, and technology. And then add the use cases.

And it is really great as we align very quickly and then we set up a testing environment of the 5G private network first at our labs, our 5G labs of Capgemini. It is, I would say, a pre-integrated, disaggregated, multi-vendor environment. To the point that it’s bringing a radio capability with a different core vendor capability packaging so that all the interfaces are working really well together.

And then once we did that, we moved that at the Schneider Electric premises to test all the 5G capabilities and adding value to the integrator autonomous crane system of Schneider. That was the whole setup to bring it, to test it before that. Bring it into the Schneider environment and test it on that replica of the crane system, if I may call it.

And it went really, really well. I mean a team play, this is, as George said previously, it’s a horizontal ecosystem. We tested it all together in intense weeks. And we collected so much data and learnings. And as we speak, we are actually still unpacking the learnings.

But the results were absolutely great and the opportunity is that as we apply that into an autonomous crane system for Schneider, Schneider can be then in a position to apply it at scale in their end client environment as we talked about the steel manufacturers or ports.And then, also ensure that it is a platform, the 5G private network for other types of products for the Schneider group. And therefore now, we are in that phase of bringing it into the client environments.

What I just have to add is that during the whole process of design build and run, we also took some very complimentary activities around sustainability. And Capgemini and Schneider decided to say, “Look, we can do some checks and what is the model for understanding the assessment of the overall environmental impact using 5G for the industrial, the autonomous crane systems, et cetera.”

We also defined a sustainability assessment methodology when it comes to seeing the total environment of it and taking into consideration, of course, the security but also the sustainability by design.

Ron Westfall: That’s wonderful and that’s I think so compelling. And now it brings up the question, what is 5G really bringing to the industrial market and what is Capgemini’s strategy in this ecosystem?

Fotis Karonis: Yeah, absolutely. First of all, 5G is a real game changer for the industries. It is designed, defined in order to resolve the bigger issues of industry. 4G, all that is a really fantastic foundation and launching with consumers and giving all these new video experiences. But the opportunity with 5G now is actually how do we scale those use cases in an industry environment?

Until now, most enterprises use fixed line networks, especially in these heavy manufacturing plants or warehouses where we need low latency, high reliability for mission-critical applications. Today it’s different because we need flexibility on the shop floor, we need production reconfiguration and layout changes. And that cannot be possible with cables. You cannot change production lines with and then reestablishing all these connections or bringing new IoT with cables and so on.

Although the fiber and all that is really reliable, you need the flexibility, you need the reliability, you need the low latency. And that is absolutely 5G ticking all those boxes. For us, it is a real game changer for trusting and getting the basics for communication and connectivity. But also then adding all the new use cases on the top that were never there.

First of all, at Capgemini, we believe the future of industry is intelligent. What we call “intelligent industry” is empowered by advanced connectivity, bringing together cloud technologies, AI, all these new technologies, IoT, in order to create digital transformation.

And all these industries are now, the DNA is connectivity. And therefore, to transform these industries, we need vast amounts of data and processes in order to make them more efficient, more cost-efficient, more agile in the production lines and more intelligent products coming out. That’s what we call an “intelligent industry.” And it’s actually to redefine all these new processes. How do we digitize them and create an industry that is much more forward-looking, innovative and faster in the deployment of products?

Now for us, 5G and edge, our strong enablers, they’re not the end game, but it’s an fantastic accelerator moving towards the digital economy. And Capgemini is a partner beyond being an SI. We’re not anymore being perceived as a system integrator for IT systems, but we actually connect the IT world with the OT world, with the operational technologies and the networks to create digital transformation. We see ourselves as partners of those industries in the journey of the digital transformation process.

And that’s what we are really differentiated. We have over 20,000 people working across the world in advanced connectivity topics around the globe. We believe that the 5G private networks play a very strong role in industry. And we collaborate in an open ecosystem playing from the devices, software, cloud, et cetera.

It’s a very strong ecosystem play. We have great collaboration with Schneider, Qualcomm and the ecosystem to drive this new world, bringing innovation and bringing the overarching use cases to the party.

Ron Westfall: I love it. I think that that’s just great. And thank you Fotis. And I think this is now an opportunity to go back to you, Olivier. And also look at what are next steps and what are your conclusions regarding 5G for industrial and automation at Schneider?

Olivier Coutelou: Okay. First for the conclusion, we are pleased with the first result of this 5G private network implementation for our hoisting application. With 5G communication for the first challenge, which is the radio frequency bandwidth optimization, we will multiply by three the number of cranes working in parallel, from three cranes to nine cranes on the same site.

This is a very, very good evolution. And for the second challenge, our calculation shows that we will reduce by 40% the maintenance effort. This is huge. This year, for the next step with Capgemini and Qualcomm, we plan to incubate the 5G solution with the customer on a real industrial site. That’s the next step.

Ron Westfall: Thank you, Olivier. And I think that now leads us to a round table wrap up for all of us. And I think one thing that folks out there are very interested in is, once 5G is deployed around the hoisting system, what additional digital use cases can make sense? What are your favorite ones? Are there one or two that come to mind? And we’ll start with you, Fotis. What are some of your favorite digital use cases out there?

Fotis Karonis: Yeah, I mean one that’s really resonating very well is the preventative maintenance, predictive maintenance, remote maintenance. I think that is an incredible added value for and fantastically seeing the actual operation and maintaining that.

But also, making people’s lives on the shop floor much easier to detect problems rather than having everybody right there on the front. Having the experts more or less remotely. And you can see things fantastically with the quality of video. 5G is amazing. I also saw that in healthcare by the way. Remote predictive maintenance, fantastic.

The second one I would call it is critical comms. Because really, in those environments I see the applications around critical communications and mission-critical applications basically.

Ron Westfall: Perfect. I love those. And I think now that gives you an opportunity, Olivier, to share one or two more use cases that you see out there that are really gaining momentum.

Olivier Coutelou: The first one will be an augmented operator. And in particular, for the remote assistants. When you have a technician on the floor, very often that’s very useful to have a remote assistant from an expert. And that can be done through the 5G because an operator on the floor is moving everywhere. And with the cameras, I can show to the expert what is a problem.

This is the first one. And second one is geolocation of assets because we have this nice future possibility to use 5G for asset geolocation in the environment. And that will be great and solve a lot of problems we have in the factories.

Ron Westfall: Excellent. Thank you, Olivier. And now we’ll turn to you, George, to see what you’re seeing out there in terms of these great use cases that are up and coming.

George Tsirtsis: Well, Ron, I love cutting wires. This is my favorite thing to do. I want to cut a lot more wires on the industrial floor and I think we showed that we can start doing that. And I want to do a lot more of it.

But if I look hard, the very nice thing about cutting wires is that you don’t have to worry about the use case. The use case is already there, it’s working, it’s commercial. And you’re just making it more flexible, more efficient, as Fotis also mentioned earlier.

But in terms of future use cases, and there are many of those and I love the ones that Olivier and Fotis mentioned, I would add maybe drones. I really like drones, especially for the larger sites. 5G connected drones that can nowadays, can fully autonomously inspect structural integrity of cranes, bridges, all kinds of things in ports and other environments that are spread out.

They can monitor the loading, unloading of the end of transportation lines, either again in a port or the output of a factory. There are a lot of things that 5G connected drones can do in these use cases.

Ron Westfall: That’s just great. I think cutting wires is just a great high note to…

George Tsirtsis: I love it.

Ron Westfall: Conclude our conversation today. And with that, thank you, everyone, for joining us. I think we had an outstanding conversation with some very important takeaways. And with that, have a good day, everyone.

George Tsirtsis: Thank you, Ron.

Olivier Coutelou: Thank you.

Fotis Karonis: Have a lovely day. Cheers.

Other insights from The Futurum Group:

Qualcomm Edge Broadens its IoT and Robotics Ecosystem

MWC 2023: Qualcomm Dramatically Raises 5G FWA Game with FWA Platform Gen 3

Qualcomm Revenue in Q2 Hits $9.27B, Beating Analyst Estimates

Author Information

Ron is an experienced, customer-focused research expert and analyst, with over 20 years of experience in the digital and IT transformation markets, working with businesses to drive consistent revenue and sales growth.

He is a recognized authority at tracking the evolution of and identifying the key disruptive trends within the service enablement ecosystem, including a wide range of topics across software and services, infrastructure, 5G communications, Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), analytics, security, cloud computing, revenue management, and regulatory issues.

Prior to his work with The Futurum Group, Ron worked with GlobalData Technology creating syndicated and custom research across a wide variety of technical fields. His work with Current Analysis focused on the broadband and service provider infrastructure markets.

Ron holds a Master of Arts in Public Policy from University of Nevada — Las Vegas and a Bachelor of Arts in political science/government from William and Mary.

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