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Yokogawa, NTT DOCOMO to trial autonomous plant control with 5G


The new proof-of-concept for autonomous plant control by Yokogawa and NTT DOCOMO. Photo: Yokogawa Electric Corporation

Yokogawa Electric Corporation and NTT DOCOMO will develop a proof-of-concept for the remote control of a process plant system using 5G, cloud and AI.

The proof-of-concept will use cloud-based Yokogawa AI for plant control and a 5G communication module mounted on a three-tank level control system to remotely control the water level.

This test aims to demonstrate the ease with which companies in the chemical, oil and other process industries will be able to modify their existing systems to make use of 5G autonomous control devices with the latest cloud-based AI.

The companies will examine whether the technical challenge of achieving low latency can be solved by using DOCOMO’s high-speed, large-capacity, low-latency 5G communications network, the DOCOMO Open Innovation Cloud, which offers multi-access edge computing (MEC) to achieve low-latency and meet other such requirements of the 5G era, as well as other cloud technologies.

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Yokogawa has already completed a trial of an autonomous control system based on its proprietary AI technology that successfully controlled the water level in a three-tank level control system. Now, by the end of 2022, the companies will construct a demonstration environment for cloud-based remote control.

In a survey of process industries that Yokogawa conducted last year, 64 per cent of respondents said they anticipated that plants will have fully autonomous operations by 2030, and that autonomous control mechanisms using AI and other technologies and not requiring human intervention will become increasingly common.

Given the latency in communication that occurs between the cloud and device controllers when conventional wireless communication is used, there have been major technological challenges in moving to autonomous remote control of plant systems.