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28 October, 2020

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Schneider and Orange install France’s first industrial 5G network

30 September, 2020

Schneider Electric has installed the first indoor 5G network in the French industrial sector at a factory in Le Vaudreuil in northern France that it uses to pilot digital transformation technologies. The aim of the installation, performed in collaboration with the telecoms operator Orange, is to use 5G to achieve reliable, scalable and sustainable communications.

Because of its low latency, high throughput and – in time – network slicing, 5G is predicted to bring major improvements to industrial processes and working methods by, for example, supporting augmented and virtual reality applications. It will help to synchronise large amounts of data in real time, thus improving performance, facilitating remote working, and optimising production efficiencies.

Five 5G antennae have been installed in part of the Le Vaudreuil factory, covering almost 2,000m2 of production space with download speeds higher than 1Gbps, on an experimental network architecture that allows data to be processed locally using edge computing technologies.

The trial is using Nokia radio AirScale and core equipment, and is operating on frequencies allocated by the French regulatory authority.

The network is being tested initially for two applications: using augmented reality for maintenance; and using a telepresence robot for remote visits to the site.

In the first application, operators are using tablets connected via 5G to a Schneider Electric augmented reality application called EcoStruxure Augmented Operator Advisor (AOA). This allows them to superimpose real-time data and virtual objects onto a cabinet, machine or entire plant. The aim is to test future functions with minimum latency and high throughput.

The operators using the AOA application can "film" a machine and access cloud-based information about its status and future maintenance in real time. This should help to reduce downtime and streamline maintenance, while minimising human error. For example, a coil-winding machine in the plant can signal if it is overheating, and a part needs to be replaced.

Production data from the AOA app is collected and processed in Schneider Electric micro data centres that power and cool servers in a secure location.

Operators at Schneider's Le Vaudreuil plant can used 5G-connected tablets to superimpose real-time data on images of equipment

In the second application, 5G is being used to drive a mobile telepresence robot that will allow people to visit the Le Vaudreuil site remotely. 5G support high-quality video with minimal lag time in virtual interactions between visitors and guides that accompany the robots as they move around the site. Such remote visits will cut travel times and costs, and reduce carbon footprints.

Schneider and Orange are planning to use the 5G installation to test other technologies, such as artificial intelligence.

“The health, economic and climatic challenges make digitisation more important than ever,” says Schneider Electric’s chairman and CEO, Jean-Pascal Tricoire. “The pilot conducted with Orange at Le Vaudreuil … validates many 5G use cases: augmented reality, remote everywhere, and 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,” he adds.

“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,” predicts Orange chairman and CEO, Stéphane Richard. “These use cases are powerful and competitive levers that will enable the full potential of Industry 4.0.”




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