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Siemens and Cisco announce industrial 5G routers

21 June, 2021

Cisco and Siemens have both announced new ranges of 5G industrial routers. Cisco’s claims that its portfolio of IoT routers is the broadest on the market, and can be used to extend enterprise networks to the edge with flexibility, security and scalability.

Siemens first industrial 5G router – the Scalance MUM856-1 – is designed to connect local industrial applications to public 5G, 4G (LTE) and 3G (UMTS) mobile wireless networks. The router can be used to monitor and service plants, machines and other industrial devices remotely via a public 5G network with high data rates.

Cisco’s Catalyst portfolio includes:
• Three modular 5G industrial routers designed to connect mobile and fixed assets securely. They use Cisco’s IOS XE architecture to extend enterprise networks and SD-WANs to the edge. The architecture eliminates the need for training on new devices and technologies, and is said to improve security. The routers offer built-in edge computing capabilities to run apps and make decisions at the edge.
• The IoT Gateway series for large-scale indoor or outdoor connections. Packaged with Cisco’s cloud-based IoT Operations Dashboard, the gateways offer fast and simple set-ups – simply plug them in and turn them on to connect to previously unconnected assets.

Cisco says that its routers and gateways will allow organisations to run connected operations at scale with a choice of management tools for both IT and OT (operational technology) uses. The unified architecture simplifies collaboration between IT and OT and streamlines deployments from the enterprise to the edge.

“Only Cisco offers a network from the enterprise to the industrial edge, with an architecture that provides visibility, automation, and security from campuses and branch offices to substations, remote operating locations, fleets, on-the-go connected assets, and beyond,” asserts Vikas Butaney, vice-president and general manager of Cisco IoT.

Cisco argues that the growing need for data means that organisations will need to increase the number of connected devices and applications they support. As 5G, Wi-Fi 6 and other new technologies proliferate, the edge will need to be able to adapt rapidly.

The new routers are designed to adapt as use cases evolve and new applications emerge. They offer a choice of modules – including 5G and LTE for public or private cellular networks, and public safety applications like FirstNet, DSL, Wi-SUN – and upgradeable storage. The CPUs and batteries can be updated in the field.

“Our customers need our hardware to be in play for 7-10 years in their operational environments,” Butaney explains. “This modularity eliminates a rip-and-replace cycle to take advantage of 5G and whatever comes next. Now they can easily take advantage of new technologies and future-proof their networking investments.”

The Catalyst routers can manage security across IT and OT environments. They incorporate Cisco’s Cyber Vision technology to provide visibility from the enterprise to the edge. This technology embeds sensors in industrial networks, allowing security teams to detect threats and to develop IT/OT threat management strategies without needing extra boxes or vendors. The portfolio also supports secure remote access for operations and equipment monitoring and servicing.

One potential use for Siemens’ 5G routers is to provide reliable, low-latency, high-speed communications with AGVs

Siemens new 5G router – first mentioned at the SPS 2020 event last November – can be integrated into private 5G networks and supports applications such as mobile robots in manufacturing, autonomous vehicles in logistics, and augmented reality applications for service technicians. The IP65-protected router can be used outside of control cabinets – for example, in harsh production environments or outdoors.

To ensure the powerful connection of Ethernet-based subnetworks and automation devices, the router supports Release 15 of the 5G standard. It provides bandwidths up to 1Gbps for downlinks and up to 500Mbps for uplinks, supporting data-intensive applications such as implementing firmware updates remotely.

Thanks to IPv6 support, the devices can also be implemented in modern communication networks. Security functions are built in to monitor data traffic and protect against unauthorised access. For example, there is an integrated firewall as well as authentication of communication devices and encryption of data transmission via VPN.

If there is no available 5G network, the routers switch automatically to 4G or 3G networks. The first release version of the router has an EU radio license; versions with other licenses are in the pipeline. With Siemens’ Sinema Remote Connect management platform for VPN connections, users can access remote plants or machines easily and securely, even if they are integrated in other networks.

As well as connecting to public networks, the Siemens 5G routers can be integrated with private local 5G networks. Siemens is testing this capability in its automotive showroom and test centre in a standalone 5G test network based on Siemens components.

Siemens has also built another prototype private 5G network at one of its plants in Amberg, Germany. Its plant in Karlsruhe will be equipped soon. The company is also implementing a private 5G network for industrial applications in an exhibition hall at the Hanover fairground. During trade shows, the network will be used by exhibitors, and when there are no exhibitions, companies will be able to use it for tests and field trials.

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