12.10.2020

5G for small and medium-sized enterprises

First 5G standalone network at Reutlingen University to launch soon

© Fraunhofer IPA/Foto: Fred Nemitz

© Fraunhofer IPA/Foto: Fred Nemitz

What are the opportunities of the new 5G mobile communications standard for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)? To answer that question, researchers are currently setting up the first 5G standalone networks in five test environments in the state of Baden-Württemberg as part of the 5G4KMU project funded by the state Ministry of Economics, Labour and Housing. One of the locations is the Werk150 at the ESB Business School at Reutlingen University. The 5G transfer centre’s locations in Stuttgart, Karlsruhe, Mannheim, Reutlingen and Freudenstadt will soon be operational. State Minister of Economic Affairs Nicole Hoffmeister-Kraut has been exploring the many possible applications.

The new 5G mobile phone standard is the first system to consider not only the customer, but also the production and logistics needs of industry. It enables needs-based networking with high bandwidth, low latency and the ability to connect a large number of end devices. Compared with previous mobile phone standards, 5G offers a simpler construction of private campus networks and thus interference-free and particularly secure data transmission within our network. This technology only reaches its full functionality with 5G standalone networks, which so far have only existed in the laboratories of mobile phone suppliers. From December onwards, such networks will be available to companies for the first time. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) cooperating with the transfer centre 5G4KMU will get access to 5G networks and technical support in the implementation and research of their specific cases. The early development and optimization of use, innovative solutions and business models will help to ensure the companies’ future competitiveness.

A symbolic start to the new project phase

“The new 5G communications standard is the foundation for a comprehensive digitization of business and industry. We must take advantage of the opportunities offered by 5G technology so that our companies in Baden-Württemberg can keep up with future competition,” says Minister of Economic Affairs Nicole Hoffmeister-Kraut. “This regionally distributed approach taken by the transfer centre minimizes local restrictions and enables companies to work with a local test environment.” The Minister symbolically rang in the next phase of the project and, along with representatives of the media and companies, saw what will be possible in the future with 5G in industry, logistics and medical technologies. The Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Economics, Labour and Housing is supporting the 5G4KMU transfer centre with a sum of approximately 5.9 million euros, mainly from funds provided by the state’s “digital@bw” strategy.

Each 5G test environment has a different focus

Along with Reutlingen University, the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation (IPA) in Stuttgart and the associated project group for automation in medicine and biotechnology (PAMB) in Mannheim are also involved in the transfer centre 5G4KMU. Further partners include the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering IAO, the Centrum für Digitalisierung, Führung und Nachhaltigkeit Schwarzwald in Freudenstadt and the wbk Institute of Production Science at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT).

Depending on their core competencies, the 5G test environments each have a different focus. At the Reutlingen Centre for Industry 4.0, the focus is on logistics, security applications in human-robot collaboration and the provision of information in companies. “5G as a wireless transmission technology with high bandwidth and availability is virtually predestined for mobile applications in logistics,” says Prof. Daniel Palm, project manager of the 5G4KMU project at ESB Business School. “We are currently realizing various demonstrators in Werk150, our factory on Reutlingen University campus. They show how 5G makes it safer and more efficient for workers to work with driverless transport systems or collaborative robots.”

Applications for Quick Checks open until 30 November

Companies with up to 2,500 employees can put their project ideas in an application to the transfer centre 5G4KMU. The participating scientists check the feasibility of these ideas in a “Quick Check”. The collaboration can then be continued in an “Exploring Project”. Working with the companies, a concept is designed, a prototype implemented and tried out in the 5G network of one of the five test environments. The cost of Quick Checks and Exploring Projects are paid from transfer centre 5G4KMU funds. So there are no extra expenditures for participating companies. The applications for Quick Checks may be made in the current round until November 30. Application details and forms may be found on the project website of 5G4KMU.