Professional mobile communications applications with global appeal

Fraunhofer IIS has developed an unprecedented 5G offering that enables precise location of autonomous vehicles, products and tools on factory floors. The Fraunhofer IIS team demonstrated how this system works and what the 5G mobile communications standard can do for professional mobile users for the first time at the new, positively received 5G Connect symposium in its 5G Bavaria Industry 4.0 test bed in Nuremberg. At the event, attendees were able to learn more about 5G from automotive applications to satellite communications, experience localization in industrial environments, and dive into the world of private networks while learning about the opportunities of edge computing.

When the topic of 5G comes up, the thing most people probably think of first is smartphones, greater bandwidth and shorter response times. In fact, however, 5G opens up completely new possibilities, especially for professional mobile communications applications such as in industry. In the future, it will be possible to link machines, control devices, cameras and sensors together even more effectively than before with 5G. This will make production more automated and, above all, more flexible. A far less well known fact is that the 5G standard is also suitable for a completely different industrial application – the precise localization and reliable control of, for example, autonomous transport vehicles or products in the manufacturing process. Fraunhofer IIS has been researching positioning technologies for around 20 years and has been working for some time with radio frequencies and signals that are now used in the 5G standard. It offers researchers a 5G test center and two 5G test beds. Manufacturers of 5G technology, network operators and, above all, companies can test applications, concepts and new developments here together with Fraunhofer experts. Fraunhofer IIS expertise has global appeal: this was evident at 5G Connect, the ­international symposium that the institute hosted for the first time on September 29, 2022.

The 5G Bavaria Industry 4.0 test bed project is funded by the Bavarian Ministry of Economic Affairs, Regional Development and Energy
© Fraunhofer IIS, Paul Pulkert
The 5G Bavaria Industry 4.0 test bed project is funded by the Bavarian Ministry of Economic Affairs, Regional Development and Energy
The 5G Bavaria Industry 4.0 test bed project is funded by the Bavarian Ministry of Economic Affairs, Regional Development and Energy
© Fraunhofer IIS, Paul Pulkert
The 5G Bavaria Industry 4.0 test bed project is funded by the Bavarian Ministry of Economic Affairs, Regional Development and Energy

Hosting 200 professional mobile communications users from Europe and the US

Around 100 experts gathered at the Nuremberg test center to learn about the current state of research on industrial 5G applications, including experts from the United States, Canada and many European countries. Another 100 or so international participants used the online platform to take part. One of the highlights of the event was the 5G location of an industrial truck in a 5G campus network. “The vehicle is equipped with a commercially available 5G modem,” says Karin Loidl, a positioning and networks expert, who organized the symposium. “But we’ve enhanced our local 5G network with algorithms to be able to locate the vehicle in real-world environments to within about 50 centimeters. The development step to get there was enormous,” she stresses, “because tracking vehicles by radio normally requires additional technology that has to be installed and networked specifically. We, however, are using the 5G standard, which combines communication and localization in one system and will be available almost ­everywhere in the future, including most factory floors. We can get by with this without any additional technology at all; except, of course, for the laser scanners on board, which help to avoid collisions.” Accordingly, the guests at 5G Connect were thrilled when the small vehicle drove through the hall, Loidl says.


Precise positioning in demanding environments

The 5G standard has been rolled out worldwide for a good two years. The fact that Fraunhofer IIS has already been able to present such powerful localization for use in enterprise solutions is primarily due to many years of development of the algorithms that process the radio signals. “Factories and production environments are full of obstacles and sources of interference that make signal processing difficult,” says Maximilian Kasparek, an expert in algorithm development. They feature a lot of metal, which can both reflect and shade radio signals. In addition, the environment changes frequently because material is temporarily stored close to production. This presents an enormously challenging environment for localization. The algorithms developed at Fraunhofer IIS are capable of correctly interpreting the 5G signals despite interference. But 5G isn’t everything. Fraunhofer IIS has expertise in a wide range of different radio standards and methods. These are used together on vehicles that travel both indoors and outdoors in the yard. For example, 5G is combined with satellite navigation. “Among other things, we use the signals from Europe’s Galileo satellite system,” reveals Jan Niklas Bauer, who is responsible for implementing localization in the 5G Bavaria Industry 4.0 test bed in Nuremberg. “Not only will this allow users to seamlessly switch be-
tween satellite and 5G navigation, but the technologies can also support each other to make localization more reliable overall.”


Fraunhofer IIS as a neutral research partner

One strength of the Nuremberg 5G test bed is that interested parties can test technologies here independently of manufacturers. “We offer tests in very different system environments,” Loidl says. “This allows us to evaluate applications neutrally. That ensures our algorithms, e.g. for localization, aren’t orient-ed to specific providers. Everyone can benefit from the results, so they can develop new 5G-related offerings with us.” Since Loidl and her colleagues also participate in the international 5G standardization body 3GPP, Fraunhofer IIS can offer access to firsthand information. “It gives us a pretty good idea of what solution makes sense for our industry partners or what hurdles might come up.”

5G Connect

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Karin Loidl

Contact Press / Media

Karin Loidl

Fraunhofer IIS
Nordostpark 84
90411 Nürnberg, Germany

Phone +49 911 58061-9413

Fax +49 911 58061-9499