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BASF took part in the Beltug event ‘5G in Belgium: what do we need now to move forward?’; take a look to find out more about ‘Why BASF thinks industry should make a 5G jump’.

Overcoming the technical obstacles

We believe that digitisation brings great opportunities. It transforms logistic activities into real-time processes, streamlined with our customers. It facilitates our operational and maintenance teams to increase their efficiency and productivity. And above all, it enhances safety procedures; consequently, it lays the foundation of the next step forward in SHE (safety, health and environment) excellence. But how do we achieve these goals, and what’s the role of 5G?

The growth of digital solutions brings with it a mass transport of data, finding its way from source to destination. The 6 km² chemical site of BASF Antwerp therefore evolved the last decade along with fibre optic technology. However, a fixed cable is not a solution when the source or destination is moving around. And it is hardly a cost-efficient infrastructure technology when the data needs to connect to a remote location. Wireless connectivity is clearly playing an increasingly important role in modern applications. Several of our use cases are already active on the public 4G network and, to a limited extent, also on Wi-Fi. Unfortunately, both options have their own technical boundaries, which means that mobile users get stuck at the limits of technology. These can include:

Insufficient reliable coverage

The BASF chemical site in Antwerp covers a surface of about 1200 football fields, which can be compared in size with Antwerp’s historic city centre. The mix of office buildings, steel and/or concrete production areas and dense metal installations is detrimental to wireless network coverage. Extensive reflections and interferences make it difficult to provide a reliable network range over the entire terrain.

Limited available capacity

The current 4G solution does not provide enough capacity to feed all wireless applications efficiently and without disruptions. If the trend is to generate even more critical data, a different type of network solution is needed, than what is available today.

Limited control

BASF wants to integrate users, devices and applications deeper into the network. Applications should not struggle for the highest priority; the network should dictate that. For example, ensured prioritisation of user groups is an essential requirement in a place where chemicals are used and where Seveso directives apply.

Insufficient privacy and cybersecurity

In the chemical industry, there’s no appetite for risk. Therefore, the use of digital data in this context requires a high degree of privacy and cybersecurity in the network. A public 4G network simply does not add up with the security guidelines of this environment.

Once these restrictions are overcome, the road to high-demanding use cases is wide open. This year, we will scale-up flexible video surveillance to support the detection of fire risks. We will use a portable network-in-a-box solution to provide temporary container offices with fixed wireless access (FWA). The logistic process will be steered out of a tablet, and we will take PTX group communication to another level by connecting portable gas detectors and live monitoring sensors to central dispatch. BASF took the JUMP*, installed a private 5G network and now slingshots valuable 5G use cases into operational business!

*The BASF project 5G JUMP stands for Journey to Use case implementation in a Mobile Private industrial 5G network. Click here for more information.


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