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The unstoppable rise of the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Yehia El Amine

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The unstoppable rise of the Fourth Industrial Revolution

It’s been two hundred years since the start of the Industrial Revolution where the mechanized manufacturing industry steamed through to bring about mass-produced goods to the market. And now, with 5G on the horizon, the industry will face its biggest and most widespread overhaul to date.

The fourth Industrial Revolution, often referred to as “Industry 4.0,” will usher in smart factories. In these futuristic factories, connected devices can sense their environments and interoperate with each other, all while making decentralized decisions.

Experts across the aisle foresee this transformation to rely on the capabilities of the next-generation 5G networks; this demands a fluid infrastructure to maintain. In parallel, the day-to-day consumer demands newer, better, and faster upgrades to keep up with the tide.

This demand breaths down the neck of manufacturers to not only innovate and create at a much faster rate, but have the ability to produce a higher standard of products at lower costs.

As the devices in tomorrow’s factories grow and become more sophisticated, manufacturers understand that they must be able to adapt the networks that connect them quickly, reconfiguring them at will.

According to a study by telecom equipment manufacturer called the 5G Business Potential, manufacturing is one of the most important sectors for innovation and the industry digitization of 5G technology. The expected market in 2026 will be USD 113 billion, meaning a 7 percent growth from current service revenue forecasts.

“Our fast and secure 5G connectivity enables the smart factory with agile operations and flexible production, utilizing industrial solutions such as automated warehouses, automated assembly, packing, product handling and autonomous carts,” says Erik Simonsson, Head of the Ericsson USA 5G Smart Factory.

Even now, smart factories are starting to mushroom across the globe, the race to optimize production, improve quality, and react to new trends has already begun.

“Industry 4.0 brings together technology advances in the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), big data, cloud and edge computing to help manufacturers advance towards a higher degree of automation and apply digital functions to physical processes,” a recent report by the GSM Association (GSMA) stated.

The report also highlighted that connectivity is a key enabler of Industry 4.0.

There is a range of technology options available to manufacturers at present, but 5G is emerging as a key connectivity solution, particularly as many of its technical capabilities have been designed with Industry 4.0 applications in mind:

  • Ultra-reliable low latency communication is vital for real time communications between machines.
  • Greater bandwidth and support for higher device density enables use cases that generate more data traffic and host a greater number of devices/sensors.
  • Network slicing allows virtual separation of networks, enhancing security and reliability.
  • Mobile edge computing allows critical network functionality to be retained at the edge, further enhancing resilience and operational continuity.

“Manufacturers aim to monitor more and more elements of the production process and move towards greater automated production through the use of AI. So smart manufacturing is promoting an evolution of large-scale automation rather than a transformation of the factory floor,” GSMA’s study said.

Automated production lines

Communication delays on the factory floor can be catastrophic. Not only do they put a mediocre cap on productivity, but also add to the production cost by subsequently wasting energy and natural resources during assembly. 

“When an ‘active’ production line is not producing, the line is increasing product costs unnecessarily, while systems that efficiently control production lines drive down these unnecessary costs,” a report by tech giant Samsung stated.

The rollout of 5G will enable factories to commence real time communication between systems to remotely control the manufacturing process efficiently with ultra-low latency. “For example, sensors along the line send real time information to the scheduling system to track the progress of the product,” the report highlighted.

Thus based on this precise level of tracking, Artificial Intelligence will be able to calculate the consumption rate of components across all production lines. This will aid to ensure delivery of parts needed to produce the components accordingly.

“While existing technologies enable this type of automation, 5G takes the system to the next level by supporting up to one million sensors, connected machines, and smartphones. A manager can access production metrics quickly and accurately and make real time decisions to control production efficiency right from his or her smartphone while sitting in a meeting,” the report explained.

In addition, in the unlikely event of component unavailability, or if the production line requires immediate maintenance, the person in charge will have the information to make the best decision going forward.

With the ability to adjust quickly, the efficiency- and profitability – of the production line increases, all because of the ultra-reliable communication benefits that 5G has over Wi-Fi.

Improving environmental safety

In today’s manufacturing environment, high resolution cameras and purpose-built safety sensors provide continuous real time monitoring that increases plant security and environmental safety.

“Wireless 5G-enabled cameras can be placed anywhere to capture and send high-quality images over high-speed connections to security staff or AI-enabled image processors to identify the need for a response – or not in the case of a false alarm,” Samsung’s report added.

With 5G’s extreme download and upload speeds, monitoring sensors on safety suits becomes ten times easier and more accurate, which also applies to personnel location, as well as other values that prioritize an employee’s health and safety on the factory floor.

“The 5G network can not only alert the emergency team of the need to respond to a place but can also provide additional information about the incident. For example, workers who wear sensors will have their vital signs, like pulse and respiration rates provided to the emergency responders. And if there are possible environmental challenges, the network can send statistics like air temperature and quality to alert the responders to any environmental hazards that may be present in the area,” the report explained.

Improved quality control

The search for effective and fast quality-control mechanisms can finally be put to an end with the help of high bandwidth low-latency capabilities.

“Factories with 5G connectivity can incorporate real time video streams with computer-based analysis to quickly identify and remove defective products from the line to improve product quality,” the report said.

These smart-QC-enabled factories have the speed, bandwidth, and reliability to send high-definition images and video to the defect-analysis-engine for time-critical product-quality decisions.

The transmission and processing happens in a matter of seconds and allows the system enough time to alert the manager to remove defective items. This approach is more effective than human analysis because the computer is faster at detecting flaws than humans and is more accurate.

With 5G slowly transitioning from a distant mirage to reality, tech giants and manufacturers have already kickstarted their efforts in constructing a number of smart factories across the world – hoping to hit the ground running.

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Yehia is an investigative journalist and editor with extensive experience in the news industry as well as digital content creation across the board. He strives to bring the human element to his writing.

Technology

AI to shape telecom investments in 2021

Inside Telecom Staff

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As the world came to a screeching halt due to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, the tech world adopted a full steam ahead approach

This has rapidly pushed technological advancements to the forefront.

Everything from augmented reality (AR), Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), 5G, and the like were propelled forward and began integration within our lives.

While the pandemic heavily impacted service providers’ spending plans, technology never stopped, and several key areas of telecom IT will demand attention in 2021.

Overall, telecom IT vendor revenue is expected to grow by 2.3 percent in 2021, a welcome improvement on this year’s anticipated 0.6 percent decline although still below 4 percent CAGR for the period 2025, according to a study by Omdia.

While telcos took notes of the on-going tech developments and participated some, they found themselves keen on the prospect of adding AI within their systems to better optimize the way they deliver their services.

In parallel, the broader AI industry is witnessing a migration of AI to the edge. For example, the edge AI training and inference market for chipset sales is expected to grow from $2.6 billion in 2020 to $10.7 billion in 2025, at a CAGR of 35 percent. 

Omdia’s research indicates that 80 percent of service providers see the use of AI and analytics, when it comes to the automation of network activities, as an “important” or “very important” IT project for 2021. Nearly 60 percent of them are planning to increase investment in AI tools.

AI presents telcos with the ability to shed human-intensive networks in favor of an intelligence-driven ecosystem, in order to go along with the ongoing quest to drive new growth, the report added.

Latecomers, telecoms are actively expanding the utilization of AI/Machine Learning (ML) beyond merely digitizing internal and external interactions. “Many Communication Service Providers (CSPs) are already on a journey to become augmented service providers where AI augments human decision making for prediction, analysis, and new revenues,” Don Alusha, Senior Analyst at ABI Research, said in the report.

An example of this could be seen by the changes made by Japan’s Rakuten, who renamed its Network Operations Centers (NOCs) to Service Experience Centers (SECs) as it implements extreme automation for self-aware networks.

In addition, Spanish telecom giant Telefónica established a new wing called Telefónica Tech Ventures which plans to incubate new growth based on AI/ML, cloud, and IoT/Big Data, as well as cybersecurity.

“AI/ML capabilities enable the industry to leverage IT-oriented nimbleness and scale as they seek to manage the complexities of today’s networks and establish new commercial models,” Alusha added.

The integration of AI/ML within these industries will aid existing asset-intensive environments where cost of goods sold, inventory turns, managing factories, and supply chain are the area of focus and success.

In parallel, the Omdia report suggested that service providers should make “targeted use of AI to better orchestrate customer journeys, as well as invest in well integrated central data repositories and robust data management capabilities.”

In the new world of cloud, AI/ML, and software, tech providers do not manufacture a product and sell it, the report highlighted.

“They sell a capability. They sell knowledge. They create it at the same time they deliver it. The business model is different and so are the economics. DriveNets, Enea Openwave, Ericsson, HPE, and Nokia are some vendors among many others that are building software-centric ways of marketing and selling solutions. The point is that AI/ML-based platforms are re-shaping existing commercial models. The winners will be those who act decisively and thoughtfully,” Alusha explained.

According to ABI Research, the consistent and continuous maturity and development of AI/ML will pave the way to enable new value creation in CSPs’ journey in becoming digital service providers.

“Technology is a key pillar of that journey, but there are other key dimensions, that if not considered part of the overall digitalization journey, may limit CSPs’ ability to capture the full value at stake,” the report added.

Under that pretense, change management is considered vital to the alteration, since it represents the bulk of the effort to push for new ways of working and conducting business.

ABI Research found that CSPs who are investing in AI/ML-based platforms must take into consideration the root of efficiency will be derived from knowledge sharing and embracing open platforms where APIs and data can be easily accessed.

Alusha stressed that AI/ML, big data and open APIs offer agility and the ability to drive innovation and enable faster and better decision making.

Consequently, CSPs must realize that the new world in cellular must start with a foundation on software and API-led connectivity.

“The ability to harness the power of software platforms and AI/ML is bound to be a defining feature of CSPs of the future. This may well mean that, in addition to bolting on software and intelligent capabilities, CSPs need to learn how to build them as cloud-edges, Open RAN, and 5G core proliferate in the ecosystem,” Alusha concludes.

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AI to enhance healthcare system and improve COVID-19 treatment in Britain

Karim Hussami

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healthcare system

The pandemic has shifted the focus regarding many areas in our lives by changing our norms and finding it vital to always search for new ways to improve care, especially as we fight Coronavirus.

While the vaccine is being rolled out around the world in order to fight the virus, artificial intelligence (AI) has also proved to be an effective tool in this scope.

As such, the UK’s NHS (National Health Service) will use AI to help improve the outcome for COVID-19 patients and reduce their time spent in hospital.

Benefits of AI

Before the series of lockdowns began, artificial intelligence is being used extensively in many countries to help detect, diagnose and prevent the spread of the virus.

This new-old method includes algorithms that identify patterns and anomalies that are already working to detect and predict the spread of COVID-19, while image recognition systems are speeding up medical diagnosis.

Some of the ways AI can help medical centers and hospitals are:

  1. Help identify virus transmission chains and check broader economic impacts. AI technologies demonstrated their potential to deduce epidemiological data more rapidly than traditional reporting of health data, following several cases.
  2. Institutions such as Johns Hopkins University and the OECD (oecd.ai) also included interactive dashboards that track the virus’ spread through live news and real-time data on confirmed coronavirus cases, recoveries, and deaths.
  3. Artificial intelligence has an early warning system that can help detect epidemiological patterns by digging mainstream news, online content amongst other information channels to provide early warnings related to healthcare networks and data flows.
  4. Data collection of populations is key to ensuring scalability and accuracy which is followed by rapid diagnosis to limit contagion and understand the disease spread.

AI could help to rapidly diagnose COVID-19 cases by quickly analysing large volumes of research data. This technology’s text and data mining tools can uncover the virus’ history, transmission, and diagnostics, management measures, and lessons from previous epidemics.

Monitor COVID-19 cases

On the other hand, Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, said: “The use of artificial intelligence is already beginning to transform patient care by making the NHS a more predictive, preventive, and personalised health and care service.”

Many countries are using population surveillance to monitor COVID-19 cases (In Korea, algorithms use geolocation data, surveillance-camera footage and credit card records to trace coronavirus patients).

In addition, AI imaging database will improve diagnosis of patients presenting with COVID-19 symptoms, whilst increased speed and accuracy in diagnosis can lead to early medical intervention and save lives.

Contact tracing systems to identify possible infection routes is a method being implemented in many countries such as Austria, China, Poland, Singapore and Korea.

The power of artificial intelligence is employed to treat one of the most crucial health crises that humans are facing and will have a huge potential for future treatments.

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WhatsApp delays privacy update until May 15

Yehia El Amine

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privacy update

After a hailstorm of controversy, WhatsApp announced on Friday that it will push back its privacy update till May 15, the delay is intended to allow users ample time to review the new conditions.

Initially, the update had required people to agree to the new privacy policy by February 8 or see their accounts shutdown should they refuse. Matters became even more confusing when the company said that it partnered with Facebook on new “integrations,” without specifically saying how the data sharing process would work.

“We’re now moving back the date on which people will be asked to review and accept the terms. No one will have their account suspended or deleted on February 8. We’re also going to do a lot more to clear up the misinformation around how privacy and security works on WhatsApp,” the company said in a statement.

User backlash was driven further forward due to the spread of misinformation which stated that WhatsApp could now read people’s conversations and other personal data. “There’s been a lot of misinformation causing concern and we want to help everyone understand our principles and the facts,” the statement read.

The controversy around the update instantly spread worldwide, as many users began to migrate to rival alternative messaging apps such as Signal and Telegram.

Mobile app analytics firm Sensor Tower said last week that Signal saw 17.8 million app downloads on Apple and Google during the week of Jan. 5 to Jan. 12. That’s a 61-fold increase from just 285,000 the previous week.

Telegram, an already-popular messaging app for people around the world, saw 15.7 million downloads in the Jan. 5 to Jan. 12 period, roughly twice the 7.6 million downloads it saw the previous week.

WhatsApp, meanwhile, saw downloads shrink to 10.6 million, down from 12.7 million the week before.

Facebook execs, such as Instagram head Adam Mosseri and WhatsApp lead Will Cathcart, attempted to quell the bleeding, as they took to Twitter to clear up the confusion, but with little to no avail.

It is worth mentioning that the sudden worldwide flare up against WhatsApp could be attributed to a deeply routed problem of trust, or lack thereof.

Facebook has a notorious track record when it comes to digital privacy, to the extent of which its CEO Mark Zuckerberg has frequently testified in front of the U.S. Congress and EU Parliament for that matter.

While the company has clarified time and again that the update will not affect users when talking to friends and family, many refuse to give Facebook the benefit of the doubt.

Since its acquisition by Facebook in 2014, Zuckerberg left WhatsApp to operate as an independent entity, which would take advantage of its parent company’s infrastructure and resources.

That arrangement allowed the instant messaging app to flourish, gaining billions of news users worldwide.

However, the approach has changed over the years, as both of WhatsApp’s founders, Jan Koum and Brian Acton, left the company in 2018 due to a falling out with the Facebook CEO. Since then, efforts of stitching together messaging services of Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp have increased, in the hopes of strengthening their e-commerce presence online.  

The fact that WhatsApp has, over time, turned its sights on monetizing the platform for its large international user base, has eroded trust in the chat app, which, in turn, has had the effect of turning a relatively mundane update into a worldwide controversy.

While Facebook has doubled down on its mission to combat misinformation on the platform, the furor over WhatsApp’s privacy changes is bitterly ironic, seeing that its hands are tied due to the closed and private nature of the service.

WhatsApp has begun sharing graphics in multiple languages detailing exactly what the privacy policy update will mean, as well as giving users a three-month delay to better communicate and explain the changes.

“We’re now moving back the date on which people will be asked to review and accept the terms…We’ll then go to people gradually to review the policy at their own pace before new business options are available on May 15,” the statement highlighted.

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