The next technological revolution is on the way. We’ve been hearing about the 5G economy for a few years now, but people who don’t closely follow science and technology developments may underestimate its significance. While there were major benefits associated with the launch of 3G and 4G network technologies, 5G represents a far more consequential disruption.
As an article in MIT Technology Review put it a couple of years ago, 5G “is a technological paradigm shift, akin to the shift from typewriter to computer. And it isn’t just a network. 5G will become the underlying fabric of an entire ecosystem of fully connected intelligent sensors and devices, capable of overhauling economic and business policies, and further blurring geographical and cultural borders.”
The effect on business across industries, including manufacturing, will be just as profound. 5G technology has the potential to accelerate growth and supercharge innovation as it generates massive amounts of data and enables seamless connectivity across business applications. MIT estimates that 5G’s contribution to global GDP will be the approximate size of India’s entire economy today.
But to fully realize the vision of the 5G economy, we need a better way to power all of the devices and sensors that will drive its formidable data-generating capabilities. Batteries and wired power connections are holding us back. Fortunately, real wireless power — energy safely delivered over distance to devices — is emerging as a solution. Here are some of the ways it will change manufacturing.
Powering Sensors Wirelessly
Estimates vary, but some analysts predict that the total number of IoT connected devices will top 75 billion by 2025, which represents a five-fold increase over a decade. IoT applications are already transforming the way manufacturers operate and enhancing supply chains and inventory control systems, but the applications depend on sensors to generate data, and sensors require power.
Factory and warehouse operations that currently deploy IoT assets have to take on the huge cost involved in wiring the area where the assets are located or labor costs for personnel to regularly change or charge the batteries that supply the power. There’s also an enormous environmental toll associated with battery use.
These factors may also prevent manufacturers that would otherwise benefit from greater device connectivity from fully rolling out an IoT strategy. Safe wireless power that keeps devices charged up passively without cords or batteries would be a gamechanger, enabling manufacturers to fully embrace the IoT across operations and benefit from the data generated in countless ways.
Wireless Power for Safety
Manufacturing companies rightly emphasize safety in all facets of operations. Wired or battery-powered devices feature prominently in maintaining a safe working environment, from smoke or harmful gas detection devices to sensors embedded in equipment to monitor structural integrity under pressure. Wiring these devices and sensors or paying workers to change batteries is expensive.
Wireless power would eliminate that expense, but more importantly, it would enhance safety by ensuring the devices and sensors don’t stop providing alerts or transmitting vital data. Wireless power can also enhance safety by eliminating the need for workers to climb ladders to change or charge batteries and by removing the need for extension cords to power wired safety devices.
Wireless Power to Prevent Downtime
Downtime costs manufacturers about $650 billion a year. To minimize downtime, factories and plants deploy sensors on equipment to detect anomalies — this is one of the most basic applications of the IoT and was embraced early because cutting downtime is a top priority. But the costs of wiring factory floors and plants and/or installing, charging and replacing batteries limits the application of these sensors.
Real wireless power that safely transmits energy to sensors without the need for line-of-sight, charging pads or human exclusion zones would make a wider deployment of sensors to power predictive maintenance strategies much more cost-effective.
Real Wireless Power Is Here
The 5G economy is on the horizon, and one of the key infrastructure assets that will fuel it — literally — is real wireless power. Forward-thinking manufacturers and warehouse operations leaders are already beginning to deploy wireless power to keep the sensors and devices that streamline workflows and enable seamless data collection charged up and ready to go.
Soon, real wireless power will be as ubiquitous as WiFi, delivering wireless power at a distance to pave the way for billions more devices and sensors. That will change the future of technology, inspiring countless innovations. So, a prediction: 5G will transform the economy and change the future, and it will run on power that is not supplied by wires or batteries.