Everybody is talking about 5G: it will make us more connected and help launch new services, making it a real opportunity for any company. And there is already hunger for more data-driven solutions: we are using bandwidth-heavy apps for streaming, we need high-speed internet in areas where IT infrastructure is limited, and we expect smart and autonomous vehicles to have access to data quickly and at scale. But this leads to a brand-new challenge: designing for 5G is not just about adding an antenna in 4G appliances. It requires a rethink of product design to make devices 5G-ready.
About the author
John Kitchingman, Managing Director, EuroNorth, Dassault Systèmes.
As we embrace new technology such as cloud computing, the Internet of Things (IoT), remote tele-surgery and precision manufacturing, this new approach to design will become even more crucial. Designers looking to create 5G-ready products need to learn the specific challenges of 5G product design to stay ahead of their competition today and tomorrow.
The special needs of 5G
For original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and suppliers, 5G is a boon at first glance: it enables them to cash in on faster networks and devices adjusted to the new considerations. But designing and modelling 5G-enabled products is a complex process that requires a minute approach, particularly as support for ultra-high frequency millimeter-wave operation is introduced.
5G devices require more components, circuits and antennas to be integrated in the already crowded compact form factor that attractive product designs have. Different materials may need to be used in the design process to ensure devices are going to perform well, comply with regulations, stand the test of time and support new applications as they get developed.
Since a higher number of connected devices is expected in the areas we live in, government regulations around 5G are also particularly stringent. Failure to meet the required electromagnetic interference (EMI) and human exposure standards may cause the product to have reliability and lifecycle issues and could even pose potential issues for people’s safety.
Failing to consider all these aspects will lead to poor product design that doesn’t meet the market’s requirements. In the worst-case scenario, a product may be recalled if it doesn’t comply with regulation; in most cases, the product will only perform for a short period of time, making it unsustainable and adding to landfill within a few years.
In a world where consumers are becoming more mindful of the products they buy, brands need to guarantee their products will perform to a high standard for a long time. This typically involves spending time not only designing products, but also testing the various designs for obvious and hidden flaws in the virtual world to save on physical prototyping.
Solving designing challenges with virtual prototyping
Businesses are turning to virtual prototyping to manage the complexity of 5G across the entire value chain, from the idea through to design, simulation and optimization, all the way to manufacturing and delivery. By designing virtual prototypes of their products, companies can ensure they meet all market compliance and address any issues before market launch. This applies to both consumer electronics devices and industrial appliances that need to be 5G-ready.
With the emergence of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), 5G applications need to operate reliably in a constrained and dynamic environment. More extensive use of simulation earlier in the design cycle will be critical in reaching the KPIs and safety standards in both consumer and industrial 5G applications.
For example, a key consideration engineers and designers must consider is the proximity in which 5G technology is to the body. This simple challenge can have a huge impact on the range of the solution: a finger can block the signal from a 5G smart watch device, limiting its ability to receive and share data. In an industrial environment where machines and humans always interact, device performance cannot slip simply because someone is walking past. To avoid this, designers need to conduct extensive parametric analysis to ensure that this will not be an ongoing issue once the product goes to market.
While the challenges of a smart watch may be addressed easily in the virtual world, more complex products like a car or an aeroplane require large teams of engineers and designers working together on the design and testing of each part. For these teams, using a cloud-based virtual prototyping tool is essential: it enables the design and engineering team to track, share and make all modifications at any time, wherever their physical location.
As a result, design and testing can happen around the clock to deliver the final product faster and guarantee that it meets all relevant industry requirements. In addition, there is digital trace of the final designed, tested and released version of the product that is readily accessible for anyone involved in the project.
Competing in the virtual world
Virtual simulation tools will enable engineers and designers to ensure that functional requirements are considered as well as design variants, simulation models and analyse results, related to the product throughout the development process.
As 5G meets virtual prototyping, businesses can design products in a more sustainable way, testing them in the digital world and reducing their waste production. 5G is not simply an evolution of existing standards but requires an entirely new approach to mobile device and infrastructure design. Many manufacturers are competing to bring 5G enabled devices to market first but development costs for 5G technology are substantial and the risk of failure is high due to the complex engineering challenges involved.
In this world, being able to innovate faster than the competition is fundamental, and 5G brings a host of new possibilities. Companies that embrace the unique challenges of designing for 5G will be able to innovate faster, in a more transparent and sustainable fashion – meeting the requirements of the market and the public and winning the race to take 5G to the mainstream.