When manufacturers want their factories to be both intelligent and fast, they call upon specialized providers to fulfill their needs, each coming with their own computers, sensors and cables. All these new tools need to be linked to an IT infrastructure. Servers host the business applications that are used to manage tasks on-site. These servers also use algorithms to understand the large amounts of data produced by the sensors. To be able to communicate both internally and externally, “this whole little world” must be connected to the network. This means that a factory’s infrastructure often requires the use of various interlinking solutions each with different interfaces. The teams at Orange and the company’s partners b<>com and IMT Atlantique have come together to bring all of these solutions onto one single platform by developing their Smart Industry infrastructure project: DE Facto, the Digital Edge Factory.
Edge Computing and 5G: A Match Made in Heaven
For its presentation at the Orange Research and Innovation Exhibition, the project team(*) has created an entire demo factory, which includes a conveyor belt, robotic arms, cameras and dedicated servers. According to the team: “It is an end-to-end solution. We’re proving that we can automatically deploy services from multiple partners in an integrated way, which makes cross-referencing their data much easier. Software and connectivity infrastructure is deployed in the factory using edge computing, and it can also be extended to the cloud.” The aim is to also show how 5G connectivity can be beneficial for Smart Industry, as it can automate areas subject to severe constraints, requires the use of very few cables, increases IoT and AI use, and can closely monitor performance. With its twin advantages of connectivity and low latency, 5G responds to the industry’s new requirement for flexibility.
Related Research Programs
The project started in 2021 within the Industry of the Future Research Program. “We were all focused on the same question: How can we bring together our expertise to meet new business needs? To be able to offer an end-to-end solution, we needed to come together with other research programs focused on infrastructure and connectivity, and join up with strong partners.” b<>com, the French Institute of Research and Technology in which Orange has invested resources and people, has contributed by automating and deploying the software infrastructure, including virtualizing the 5G core. The Engineering School from the prestigious French technological university IMT Atlantique is also involved in the radio connectivity side of the project.
Finding an Industrial Partner
An early version of the project was presented at two fairs earlier this year, generating interest from at least one industrial solutions provider, with whom the team is discussing carrying out tests. By showcasing a fully operational version at the Orange Research and Innovation Fair, the team wants to attract even more partners. “This stage is essential for gaining visibility, both on the operational side among players such as those deploying cloud infrastructures, as well as among IoT solutions and Computer Vision developers and other key players. We want to team up with partners to test DE Facto’s industrial robustness, but also to test adherence to our deployment model, as this model is completely different from what is currently being used in the industry.”
* The demonstration is being led by Yvan Picaud, Head of the Industry of the Future Research Program at Orange, Nabil Ditini, in charge of this Research program’s Wireless Factory project, Ivan Meriau, Project Manager at both Orange and the b<>com Research Institute on the Supra project and Stéphane Tuffin, Research Project Manager for the Network Service Quality Program.