John Deere buys licences to deploy 5G in smart factories

  • December 2, 2020
  • William Payne

Precision agriculture equipment manufacturer John Deere has obtained 5G licences in Iowa and Illinois in an FCC auction of 3.5 GHz CBRS spectrum. John Deere plans to use the licences to equip its largest factories in North America with private 5G networks and fully implement Industrial IoT across its manufacturing plants.

The company says the private 5G networks will allow it to expand factory capabilities leveraging edge computing, analytics, and autonomous devices. John Deere is planning to use 5G to implement a larger set of smart applications like real-time location systems, asset tracking, inventory management, wearables, building automation, and robotics for operational cost savings. 

As an agricultural equipment manufacturer, John Deere’s factories are located in rural counties. Such areas are typically left behind by mobile network operators when implementing cellular broadband. This leaves such areas at a disadvantage in implementing smart manufacturing, IoT and AI technologies. By obtaining these licenses, John Deere aims to put itself at the forefront of agricultural technology development and manufacturing.

John Deere’s manufacturing facilities are complex environments that rely on automation and connectivity. With miles of embedded Ethernet cables connecting Wi-Fi drop points currently in factory ceilings, the facilities are faced with limited flexibility for set up and upgrades. 5G based private LTE networks will allow John Deere to design a more flexible, nimble and connected facility, creating opportunity for further advancement and greater efficiency that will transform the manufacturing process.

“John Deere has always focused on how to empower customers to do more with less by using technology, and our focus on tech goes way beyond the fields. It impacts everything single aspect of our business, and we’re constantly looking at ways to improve our own efficiencies and outcomes with it,” said Jahmy Hindman, Chief Technology Officer. “Implementing 5G in our manufacturing facilities allows John Deere to make significant progress in our Smart Industrial strategy by turning factories into smart and connected manufacturing facilities – a critical piece of the industrial IoT.”

John Deere will implement 5G at its manufacturing facilities in the following counties: Rock Island, Illinois; Scott County, Iowa; Dubuque, Iowa; Polk County, Iowa; Black Hawk County, Iowa. The rollout is set to occur during fiscal year 2022.