IBM, Samsung, M1 team up for 5G smart-manufacturing trial in Singapore

THE Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) plans to kick off another industry trial for 5G in the next few months, with a focus on smart manufacturing, it announced on Wednesday.

Under a tie-up with Keppel-owned telco M1, as well as tech multinational IBM and network provider Samsung, factory solutions will be tested and displayed at an IBM facility in Changi Business Park.

Successful solutions could be commercialised abroad and deployed in operations across a range of markets and sectors, the industry partners said in a joint statement. The IMDA also plans to share insights with businesses such as small and medium-sized Singapore manufacturers.

Funded from a S$40 million kitty that the IMDA set up last year for 5G trials, this fresh move joins previous efforts such as a separate smart factory pilot involving Singtel, the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) and industrial landlord JTC Corp.

Singapore had earlier identified Industry 4.0, plus smart estates, mobility, maritime operations, and consumer and government applications, as strategic clusters for its 5G road map.

The provisional awards for its two nationwide 5G licences were made in April to Singtel and a StarHub-M1 joint venture, with coverage roll-out scheduled to start in January 2021.

In the latest project, trials at IBM's upcoming Industry 4.0 Studio are slated to start this quarter and will test 5G uses that tap technologies such as artificial intelligence and augmented reality.

The project seeks to develop 5G-enabled tools for manufacturers such as automated visual inspection using image recognition and video analytics, equipment monitoring and predictive maintenance based on acoustics, and assembly and debugging assisted by augmented reality.

Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran had told the press last week that the government will work with partners to develop "use cases for the various types of applications that are possible in industry", as that will drive 5G demand and "is an important start".

IMDA chief executive Tan Kiat How has now said: "5G will be the backbone of Singapore's digital economy, strengthening our national competitiveness and reinforcing our position as a global business and connectivity hub. ... We are committed to co-investing with the industry, and welcome all companies to join us on our 5G journey."

Businesses interested in seeing the solutions can reach out to the four project partners to arrange a visit to the IBM Industry 4.0 Studio, which is expected to open in June.

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