IBM, Samsung, M1 tie up to kick off Singapore 5G smart manufacturing trial in June

The trial will begin at the IBM Industry 4.0 Studio in Changi Business Park. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - A trial to look at ways that 5G connectivity can improve the control of robotic arms and other smart devices on factory floors is set to begin, with IBM, M1 and Samsung announcing a collaboration on Wednesday (May 6).

The tie-up comes a week after licences to build Singapore's two nationwide 5G networks were awarded to Singtel and a joint venture between StarHub and M1.

The trial, which will benefit from the Infocomm Media Development Authority's (IMDA) $40 million fund for such projects, will begin next month at the IBM Industry 4.0 Studio in Changi Business Park, with commercial rollout planned for the end of the year.

With 5G technology, for example, signals can be transmitted to robot arms in production lines almost instantly without lag.

The technology promises lower latency and surfing speeds of more than 20 times what 4G networks offer, as well as the capacity to connect 1,000 times more devices.

Other applications being tested include video analytics and augmented reality 3D modelling for monitoring the condition of devices on factory floors.

The 5G technology is expected to enable faster frame transfer rates between cameras and a central server compared with 4G or Wi-Fi for real-time feedback.

IMDA launched its $40 million fund with the National Research Foundation last June to accelerate the rollout of 5G technology in six strategic clusters, including smart manufacturing.

IMDA chief executive Tan Kiat How noted that the manufacturing sector is a key one for Singapore, accounting for 20.9 per cent of Singapore's gross domestic product (GDP) last year.

"For us to sustain our global competitiveness in this space, it's about leveraging technology to enable new business models and innovation, and this partnership is a step in that direction," said Mr Tan.

"(It's about) how to get our factories in the manufacturing domain an edge compared to competitors in the rest of the world."

The $40 million is an initial amount, he added, and IMDA is prepared to raise the sum should it receive "more good ideas" for the application of 5G across various sectors.

Other projects that have qualified for a grant under the fund include driverless vehicle trials in ports and a cloud gaming tie-up between Singtel and Razer.

A trial by Singtel at JTC Corporation's smart Model Factory in Jurong and involving smart sensors for tracking the location of driverless vehicles on factory floors was previously announced last year.

IBM Singapore managing director Martin Chee said the collaboration will seed Singapore's 5G capabilities and strengthen its position as a leading industrial innovation hub.

IBM and Samsung are already collaborating on a global scale for 5G innovation, and solutions worked on in Singapore could be replicated in the companies' other operations around the world.

The telcos awarded the nationwide 5G licences will have to provide 5G mobile network coverage to at least half of Singapore by end-2022 and scale up to nationwide coverage by 2025.

All four telcos - Singtel, StarHub, M1 and TPG - will also be allowed to operate smaller 5G networks that provide spot coverage.

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