Talking industrial wireless networks with Graham Wilde
Graham Wilde is Head of 5G Business Development at Three Group Solutions. Here he offers his views on the challenges and opportunities that come with taking an innovative new solution to market.
“From vision to value. That’s typically the journey most organizations need to make when exploring the vast potential of 5G private networks. Vision in terms of setting the destination, and helping bring to life the ‘future state’ made possible by the technology and what that means for key metrics such as productivity and increased automation. Value in relation to the actual, measurable benefits made available for both today and tomorrow.
What helps in this conversation is that most audiences have obviously heard of 5G, and appreciate the technology can play an important role in helping revitalize their current operations. Yet dig a little deeper, and it soon becomes evident that there is a lack of understanding as to the true scale of transformation made possible by private networks. For both customers and vendors, the technology exists at the cutting edge of enterprise connectivity, and as a result no playbook exists to help guide expectations.
What is common though, are the business outcomes underpinning our clients’ ambitions – which typically include:
- Maintaining a secure perimeter around their geographical locations
- Enabling autonomous technologies with ultra-low latency communications
- Opening up new use cases such as AR/VR, push-to-video, and remote-control machinery
Interestingly however, few clients are coming to Three Group Solutions with a definitive list of specific requirements. Instead, they’re looking for a far more consultative engagement. A process we refer to as co-creation, which involves exploring desired outcomes and the sharing of ideas, before a clearer picture emerges of the actual business value we can deliver.
The result is a creative and collaborative approach that actively demonstrates the experience and know-how available across Three Group Solutions. It’s also an approach that helps build a close working relationship from the very beginning. Plus, it helps develop trust in our ability to deliver. This last point being particularly important, given that many of our clients operate in the field of critical infrastructure – and where even a small issue with the network can cause absolute chaos!
Hence the focus we put on four specific areas relating to any project:
- Determining the most convenient and effective way to deploy a solution without causing business disruption
- Ensuring that once a network is switched on and tested, all the wrap around services are all closely aligned and working seamlessly
- Defining the process for problem resolution. For example, if there’s a fault on location at an airport that can’t be fixed remotely, it’s important to specify upfront the process for getting an engineer on site (certification requirements, security checks etc.)
- Checking back to ensure that the business benefits for the customer are actually being realised
The key takeaway from all this being that we partner with clients into the long term. A relationship that adapts and evolves over time to help extract the maximum return from any investment.
Building on success
What clearly helps in any successful project is experience. The industrial wireless industry may well be in its early stages, but with Three Group Solutions you’ll find experts that have been working on the technology for longer than most of our direct competitors. That’s certainly the case in critical infrastructure, where we’ve delivered networks for organisations such as the Port of Felixstowe and Heathrow Airport. Environments that if they go down for even a few hours can quickly have huge economic consequences.
In each of these projects, plus others besides, we’ve experienced challenges in implementation. Overcoming them has taught us a lot, and added to our ever-expanding best practice playbook (if one doesn’t exist, you simply write it yourself!). This accumulated wisdom we see as a clear advantage in both helping shape the nature of our solutions, and in proving their ability to offer super reliable, scalable, and cost-effective connectivity.
Not that it’s only our technology that’s been fully tested to the limit. At the same time our people have also shown their true capabilities when designing, building, and managing industrial-scale mobile networks. That’s why I’d be the first to admit that our continued success is built on the shoulders of our product managers, technical designers, legal experts, and testing engineers etc., as it is on any specific solution.
Three Group Solutions therefore has complete confidence in our offering, and the task now is to translate the benefits of private networks into a business case for more campus-based environments, beyond the critical environments we’ve been working in. Doing that places the emphasis on us to identify and map out dynamic new use cases that add incremental value to the overall story for 5G private networks. For example:
- Opening up a world of autonomous vehicles in scenarios such as logistics hubs for picking and moving stock
- Video analytics for checking the quality of build on a manufacturing production line
- Introducing AI into a network to identify abnormal conditions (to address security, safety, and/or quality concerns etc.), and initiate an immediate response
All told, we have achieved much, and many more businesses stand to benefit from the experience we’ve gained so far”.
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