Schneider trials Industrial 5G at Le Vaudeuil smart factory

  • September 30, 2020
  • William Payne

Schneider Electric’s factory at Le Vaudreuil in Normandy has become the first factory in France to trial industrial 5G. Telecoms operator Orange has deployed indoor 5G on experimental frequencies as part of the trial. Le Vaudreuil is a smart factory and showcase for Schneider’s industrial automation and digital technologies, and the trial is a ‘co-innovation’ project between the two companies.

The indoor 5G-enabled trials will support two use cases: augmented reality applied to maintenance technician activities and the implementation of a telepresence robot for remote visits.

Nokia radio AirScale and core equipment has been selected and the experimental frequencies have been allocated by the French regulatory authority. Five indoor 5G antennas were installed inside a part of the factory, covering close to 2,000 m² of production space with download speeds beyond 1 Gbps, on an experimental network architecture allowing local data processing with edge computing technologies.

Building on its co-innovation ecosystem, Orange has proposed to use the recently launched Dell technologies 5G-ready Latitude 9510 business PC to deliver these use cases. This allows Schneider Electric to benefit from the laptop’s embedded computing power, wherever the user is located.

In the first use case tested, the teams connected tablets to 5G using the Schneider Electric augmented reality application called EcoStruxure Augmented Operator Advisor (AOA). This custom application improves operational efficiency with augmented reality, enabling operators to superimpose real-time data and virtual objects onto a cabinet, machine or entire plant. The objective with 5G is to test future functionality with minimum latency and maximum throughput.

Operators using the AOA application via their 5G-connected tablet film a machine and access information about its status and future maintenance that are hosted in the cloud in real time. This helps reduce machine downtime and streamline maintenance operations, while minimising human error. For example, temperature data from a coil winding machine can signal when it is overheating, and a part needs to be replaced.

Production data used by AOA are collected and processed in Schneider Electric’s micro data centre solutions, such as Smart Bunker or Micro Data Centre 6U Wall Mount, which locally power, cool and protect IT infrastructure.

These “all in one” envelopes bring together power, cooling, and urbanisation of servers in a secure place. They can support the roll-out of 5G on a new site with its new use cases such as augmented reality, AI, and IoT.

The second use case tested by Schneider Electric and Orange is driving an AXYN mobile telepresence robot using 5G to arrange remote visits to the Le Vaudreuil site. 5G makes it possible for very high-quality video to be used with minimal lag time in the virtual interactions between the visitor and the Schneider Electric guide that accompanies the robot throughout the Le Vaudreuil site. A remote visit with high-quality video and audio will help minimise travel time and costs and reduce the carbon footprint.

The trial of these first use cases will augment Orange and Schneider Electric joint efforts to build and operate indoor 5G networks in an industrial setting. More experiments will be developed to test technologies such as artificial intelligence.

“5G is a breakthrough technology for businesses that will bring numerous industrial applications, such as predictive maintenance, real-time video processing, augmented reality and telepresence. These use cases are powerful and competitive levers that will enable the full potential of Industry 4.0. To make the most of this new mobile network, operators, industrial players, public authorities and companies will have to work together. At Orange, we believe in a co-construction approach. Our co-innovation with Schneider Electric for the factory of the future is an example of this: We are poised to support our industrial partners in their digitalisation and in the development of solutions that meet their needs.” said Stéphane Richard, Chairman and CEO, Orange.

“The health, economic and climatic challenges make digitisation more important than ever for companies. The pilot conducted with Orange at Le Vaudreuil in a Schneider Electric industrial showcase validates many 5G use cases: augmented reality, remote everywhere, real-time access to data… 5G’s reliability, scalability and durability make it a connectivity solution well adapted to industry 4.0, for greater resilience, competitiveness and sustainability.”, said Jean-Pascal Tricoire, Chairman and CEO of Schneider Electric.