At industrial production sites around the world, companies are concerned with two main things: worker safety and how to improve operational efficiency. Now, companies can test ideas and equipment to improve both using an LTE/5G ready-network and other connectivity technologies within a massive defunct industrial site in Essen, Germany.

Welcome to our Industry X Innovation Center in Essen.

Here companies can test industrial connectivity applications on a campus network built amidst tons of concrete and steel, which can seriously interfere with wireless signals. Here’s one example: You can see how workers in the field benefit because they no longer have to deal with paperwork on the go; instead, data is collected automatically on mobile devices or wearables and can be shared among workers in real-time.

Accenture has set up the network at the historical Zeche Zollverein, once the largest coal mine in the world. It is in the heart of Germany’s industrial center and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Sometimes the industrial complex is called the Eiffel Tower of Germany’s Ruhr industrial heartland. Besides connected-worker applications, companies can test drone technology, augmented reality, automation and data analytics solutions, for example.

In Essen, the indoor and outdoor campus network is hosted on public infrastructure from Deutsche Telekom. Signals from users’ devices, such as wearables or mobile phones, travel through Deutsche Telekom’s virtual private network to Accenture’s network.

We decided to use this site so clients can test applications in which workers in an industrial setting receive data on mobile devices. In contrast to a regular public 5G network, our virtual 5G campus network offers more security and reliability because data is transferred through a virtual private network and we are guaranteed bandwidth via Deutsche Telekom’s antenna.

As an integrator of processes, data and systems, we are working to help our clients boost the connectivity of their operations. Typically, this starts with identifying use cases and value before a technology roadmap is designed.

A walk through the center

When clients come to the Industry X Innovation Center in Essen, one thing they can experience is how companies can provide access to digital twins for asset documentation. This is important when different disciplines of a project, such as electrical, piping and mechanical engineering, struggle to work together as one team. Or they can see how workers in the field can access relevant engineering systems and frequently updated documentation on their mobile devices.

Other use cases include: maintenance and inspection that is guided by an augmented reality application which uses overlayed plant data; over-the-shoulder cameras to communicate with the control center about the job a worker is performing; or using the network to manage a fleet of drones from a control center.

As 5G becomes increasingly available, it is enabling more applications that involve extended reality, which includes virtual reality and augmented reality. For instance, it can be used for guiding repairs. If someone must repair a pump at a remote location, the worker could wear augmented reality glasses and place a virtual pump next to a real pump by streaming data through the glasses. When the real and the virtual model are side by side in the worker’s field of vision, the worker can then follow step-by-step instructions for the repair.

These technologies are changing the way companies in the process industries work and ensure worker safety. Where two people were needed in the field before, now it is possible that only one person with a mobile device can do the job, backed up by a whole team on the other end of the line.

What was once only possible with WLAN-type networks inside buildings becomes possible anywhere a company decides to erect or use a campus network. In addition, companies have better data security and control over devices on campus networks (as opposed to public networks), and they are able to operate more devices within the same area.

We cordially invite you to engage with us at the Industry X Innovation center and start a conversation about how your company might benefit from additional connectivity or a virtual campus network and the many applications it enables.

Learn more about our LTE/5G-ready testbed, experience center and playground for clients and book a visit.

Johannes Greß

Leiter – Essen Industry X Innovation Center

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