Kit vendor Ericsson and cloud giant AWS teamed up to build a 5G powered machine vision system in a Hitachi factory to help spot defects in the production line.

The private 5G infrastructure trial took place at Hitachi Astemo Americas’ electric motor vehicle manufacturing plant in Berea, Kentucky in the US. It focussed on how real-time digital video, AI, and edge-to-cloud technologies can enable automated fault detection.

It paired Ericsson Private 5G with the AWS Snow Family to power machine learning models within the Hitachi manufacturing complex. When Hitachi’s video analytics were plugged in, real-time video of the component assembly operation was fed across the network to help detect defects earlier than they otherwise would be.

The computer vision system could apparently simultaneously inspect 24 assembly components compared with one-by-one inspection using ‘conventional approaches’ – by which it presumably means a human inspector. Thanks to the 4K cameras, system was apparently able to observe defects at the sub-millimeter level, which to be fair is more than a bloke with a clipboard a pair of bifocals can manage.

“The best news about this collaboration is that it is not about capabilities that will be available at some distant point in the future,” said Thomas Noren, Head of PCN Commercial and Operations, Ericsson. “These solutions can be deployed today in manufacturing and enterprise environments to deliver a range of early adopter competitive advantages. As global technology leaders, Ericsson AWS and Hitachi America R&D have shown how collaboration can drive innovation.”

Sudhanshu Gaur, Vice President of R&D for Hitachi America and Chief Architect at Hitachi Astemo Americas added: “We explored and validated new use cases enabled by private 5G to show how smart factories can already function,” Sudhanshu Gaur, Vice President of R&D for Hitachi America and Chief Architect at Hitachi Astemo Americas, says. “The combination of private 5G, cloud and artificial intelligence/machine learning automated technologies has the potential to revolutionize the way we manufacture products, and we are excited to be at the forefront of this innovation.”

The concept of automatic fault detection and related smart factory gubbins is not particularly new, but as the macro RAN market stutters, kit vendors such as Ericsson may pursue ways to raise awareness of and sell private 5G networks with fresh vigour in the coming years. While much smaller than the general RAN market, it is an area that appears to be enjoying growth.

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