The benefits of URLLC for the Internet of Things

Ultra-reliable low latency communications (URLLC), a core component of 5G network technology, are ideal for mission-critical Internet of Things (IoT) applications. The guaranteed connection and low latency suits applications such as machinery and autonomous industrial vehicles, like driverless transport systems.

But since many IoT solutions don’t need such high performance, the mobile devices delivering these applications can continue on 4G.

5G network architecture has three main service areas that rise to the challenges of low latency, reliability, flexibility and connection density:

  • Massive Machine-Type Communications (mMTC) is designed to meet the needs of smart cities and other low data intensity/high volume IoT applications by connecting large numbers of devices.
  • Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB) offers speeds of up to 10Gbps for high bandwidth usage, providing faster download speeds and improved user experience for applications such as HD video streaming and virtual reality/augmented reality (VR/AR).
  • URLLC is the solution for mission-critical applications where network reliability and low latency (less than 1ms) is paramount. This could be used in applications such as remote-controlled robotics.

What is URLLC?

URLLC is one of the main features that makes 5G a better performer than 4G. It guarantees faster and richer services as the lower latency allows a network to process large amounts of data with minimal delay.

The latency is so low that it is faster than human visual processing. This creates new possibilities, such as the remote control of devices in real-time. Speaking in numbers, the latency is expected to be 1ms for packet transmission, with end-to-end security and 99.999% reliability.

As a result, URLLC becomes a key ingredient in the successful advancement of IoT, industrial internet of things (IIoT) and tactile internet (TI). It aids the development of smart grids, intelligent transport systems such as driverless vehicles, factory automation, robotic surgery, remote equipment repairs, machine operation simulation and industrial training, for example for operating in hazardous environments.

But it’s not only industry that benefits. The high speed and low latency enable a better VR and AR experience for consumers.

What do IoT devices need from a cellular network?

Depending on the specific application, IIoT can have different requirements from a cellular network. In many cases, an IoT device is managed remotely. So it should require minimal maintenance, and have low or stable energy consumption and maximum battery life. As the device depends on its connectivity to a cellular network, that network must be stable and reliable. The need for low latency is application specific. Few IIoT applications require the levels of latency possible, but for those that do, URLCC is the perfect fit.

Where connectivity and speed are mission critical for a remotely-operated device and the network drops, becomes slower or lags, the results would be loss of time, money and equipment. More dramatically, if the application is remote surgery or remote critical equipment repair, human life is at risk.

How does URLLC support IoT applications?

When IIoT is used for automated car parts assembly, high reliability and low latency are crucial for everything to perform to a precise algorithm which operates at a certain pre-set speed. Latency can cause deviation, resulting in damaged parts or incorrect construction.

Low latency is also important for health and safety purposes. For example, machines that perform processes in a factory are programmed to stop if a human comes within a certain distance. For the machine to measure someone’s proximity and respond quickly to avoid injury, it must be highly-sensitive to human activity and operate in real-time.

URLCC technology is at the heart of the successful development of autonomous vehicles and industrial machinery. The high speed and low delay means that smart vehicles can communicate safely and quickly with each other, and receive real-time traffic data. This enables vehicles to perform tasks such as automated loading/unloading and smart collision avoidance.

Which is best for IoT applications, 5G or 4G?

4G is still a network with impressive performance and the best market coverage. 5G is approximately 100 times faster and has many performance benefits. Higher speeds are needed for industrial applications, the increasing number of devices in IoT, and the volumes of data they have to send and receive to keep up with the tasks they must perform.

5G wins the low latency competition. Network slicing is also easier in 5G, while the battery life of low-powered devices is expected to increase by 10 years, making them more suitable for IoT applications. So where remote control is the main requirement, 5G is the preferred choice.

Although 4G remains the best solution in many applications, URLCC opens doors to new possibilities in the world of artificial intelligence, the factory of the future, autonomous vehicles and machinery, robotics, VR and AR. When developing mobile devices to exploit URLLC, designers should understand the needs of the application and the best cellular network solution that meets them.

Designing IoT devices for URLLC

URLLC delivers many benefits for IoT applications. It provides new opportunities to build devices in scenarios where responsiveness and hyper-reliability are key. At Antenova, we’re helping the industry innovate by creating small, high-performance antennas that are easy to integrate and pass all the necessary network certification processes.

To see our full range of antennas for cellular devices – including 5G, 4G and 3G – browse our range of antennas or download our antenna comparison guide.

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