Optimizing Power Plant Decisions with 5G Technology
The power industry is always looking for ways to improve efficiency and enhance reliability. 5G, that is, fifth-generation wireless technology, may help utilities reach new heights.
Every day, we learn a little more about what’s possible with 5G. While initial rollouts of 5G have positioned the technology as a successor to 4G LTE, its potential applications extend far beyond speedier smartphone technology. At the same time, as the excitement around 5G increases, it becomes difficult to separate fact from fiction and identify exactly how the new technology will enable progress in individual industries, especially for utilities.
5G is essentially a fully wireless form of digital communications that allows the seamless transmission of information from one device or entity to another—resulting in a fully connected world (Figure 1). This technology has obvious applications in the consumer entertainment space, enabling faster streaming feeds and immersive entertainment experiences such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), but it can also up-level the utility and industrial internet of things (IIoT) space. When paired alongside existing (and complementary) technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI), 5G can enable greater connectivity and faster analysis of industrial data.
5G should be a pillar of every organization’s roadmap. It will play a key role in infrastructure, and organizations must prepare themselves for the increased importance of this technology.
Preparing for New Technology
There’s a learning curve when implementing any kind of new technology. Between weaving in new methods and systems with the existing technology in place, and ensuring that employees are well-equipped to work with new technology, there’s a lot that needs to be done to set the stage for technologies such as 5G and AI.
The utility industry is at a unique inflection point. As an industry that has traditionally struggled to make its way into the digital era, 5G could be the push utilities need to amplify the impact of existing technologies, such as AI.
Before we discuss the benefits of 5G and other transformative technology, we have to recognize the history of the utility industry, identify the past technologies that failed to gain traction, and determine how best to avoid making those mistakes when implementing new technology moving forward.
The utility industry is cautious to adopt new forms of technology, which largely boils down to having to create change at scale. There are three main objectives that the utility industry typically focuses on: safety, reliability, and affordability. Because this industry is heavily regulated (and rightfully so)—the safety and reliability of new technology must be proven prior to implementation.