Opinion: Industry 5.0 and the dawn of a new digital age

Industry 5.0As AI and IoT become increasingly utilised throughout society, Industry 5.0 is expected to significantly revolutionise the way we work, says Marina Ruggieri, IEEE fellow and professor of telecommunications at the University of Rome Tor Vergata.

The pandemic has had a huge impact on human habits, certainties and passion for strategic planning. For more than a year, COVID-19 has become the undesired companion of our lives, invading us with variable figures and weak statistics on a daily basis, all while undergoing the unprecedented challenge of aligning our claim to be ‘modern.’ This perfect storm has become an unprecedented accelerator for credible digitalisation of society, with such urgency that it is making the transformation time-efficient, despite resistance to revolutionary changes.

How collaborative robots will usher in the era of Industry 5.0

The transition to a pervasively connected world is impacting all vertical sectors of society, including industry and the definition of “office” smart working, which has been continuously shaping since early 2020. We are starting to see the passage between Industry 4.0 and 5.0 happening, even though the 4.0 paradigm has not been fully understood or widely developed yet. The lack of a reassuring transition from one generation to the next one is similar to what might happen in the 5G to 6G transition. This is a result of the pandemic-driven digitalisation of society and, more specifically, its vertical sectors. These accelerated transitions can be characterised by one key word, which we can expect to get better acquainted with – pervasiveness. The Industry 5.0 paradigm will rely on the pervasiveness of three major pillars: connectivity, knowledge and intelligent sensing.

Connectivity at the core

Connectivity is a key element in improving digitalisation in almost every environment. A connectivity infrastructure can become pervasive when its performance and integration of diverse environments makes the coverage of users broad, reliable, and suitable to the application realm it is requested for.

The pervasive connectivity paradigm can be applied to fixed and mobile scenarios. Nonetheless, the most impressive passage from connectivity to pervasive connectivity can be appreciated with 5G in its evolution to 6G. 5G has started a new era in connectivity, characterised by a support-by-design approach to key verticals, such as society and industry, as well as key technological enablers, including artificial intelligence (AI) and internet of things (IoT). The consequent goal to solve societal issues of this decade and the next suggests an intrinsic mission for 5G and 6G in the sustainability domain. The sustainable approach of both 5G and 6G networks should, in turn, pour out on the vertical domains, including industry.

Pervasive connectivity will enable an effective cooperation between humans and AI-based robots, particularly in Industry 5.0. This paradigm is encouraging the relationship between humans and robots in cyber-physical domains, relying on advanced five-sense and hologram-based communications. Wearable and implantable devices are also possible means to effectively apply the pervasive connectivity to Industry 5.0 scenarios.

Knowledge is power

Vertical domains need suitable and trustable data to take the most advantage from pervasive connectivity. This concept applies, in particular, to Industry 5.0. The pervasive network performance allows us to focus on cloud-based data, which improves the flexibility and security of whole systems. Therefore, cloud is a key-asset in the deployment of Industry 5.0.

It is essential that data is intelligent enough to provide time and content-effective usage within the vertical realm. An effective approach for the knowledge extraction can be both distributed and energy-saving.  Synergy between connectivity pervasiveness and intelligent data management promises high effectiveness and secure operations to the Industry 5.0 environment.

Pervasive sensing

The Industry 5.0 paradigm envisages high-performance connectivity between humans and robots, with key objects of the surrounding and operational industrial environment enhancing the productivity, quality and security of the factory. A pervasive use of IoT, based on intelligent sensors that contributes to the generation, processing and exchange of knowledge, enhances the performance of both human and robot operators. Optimising their cooperation with the surrounding environment improves all activities within that environment. It is expected that IoT-based Industry 5.0 systems will improve sustainability by lowering power consumption and increasing network softwarisation.

As technologies, such as AI and IoT, become increasingly utilised throughout society, Industry 5.0 is expected to significantly revolutionise the way we work. Although working in close proximity with AI robots and smart machines may seem like an unfamiliar concept at the moment, there is no denying that Industry 5.0 will significantly enhance efficiency and transform the current working environment.

Marina Ruggieri, IEEE fellow and professor of telecommunications at University of Rome Tor Vergata