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In this installment of the AI in Supply Chain series (#AIinSupplyChain), we explore the topic of the next generation of network technologies. Supply chains depend on a seamless flow of information, money and physical goods. Knowledge of where network technologies are heading is an important aspect of understanding where supply chains are heading.
Agencies within the federal government have been thinking about this, and that work is summarized in Networks of the Future, a white paper written for chief information officers within different federal agencies by the Innovation Committee of the Federal Chief Information Officers Council.
In this article, I distill the white paper and highlight the issues it raises that all senior business executives need to be aware of.
The 10 things we should all know know about the networks of the future
No. 1 Networking technology is about to change. This change is happening because of increasing data demands. The change will create opportunities for existing businesses and emerging startups to provide new services and products to end-use customers who might be individual consumers or other businesses.
No. 2 We are pushing the limits of our existing telecommunications network architectures. End-use customers expect instant and always-on connectivitivity. The evolution of how businesses make things and manage information is requiring new approaches to managing physical and nonphysical assets.
No. 3 Fifth-generation (5G) mobile networks will enhance businesses’ ability to use and benefit from emerging technologies in their supply chains by greatly enhancing the application of edge computing within industrial supply chains.
No. 4 The United States, China and South Korea are leading the race to deploy 5G technologies. The United States might lose this race because it is adopting a bottom-up, market-based approach. China and South Korea are both adopting a more top-down approach. Large companies looking for signals about what is possible might consider studying what is happening in China and South Korea now, since that is an indication of what might happen in the rest of the world in the near future.
No. 5 Rural parts of the United States may be left behind in the rollout and adoption of 5G technologies because they lack the infrastructure to support it. This may have a negative impact on the ability for these technologies to be implemented by industries with production facilities primarily located in rural areas.
No. 6 The regulatory framework that governs the rollout of 5G technologies in the United States could lead to an uneven deployment of the technology since federal, state and local approvals must be obtained separately by companies building the physical infrastructure required to bring the technologies to market.
No. 7 The next generation of Wi-Fi technology, Wi-Fi 6, will serve as a complement to 5G, with 5G supporting outdoor networks while Wi-Fi 6 supports indoor networks. Businesses must not neglect their wired networks since those are easier to secure and provide more dedicated throughput.
No. 8 The Software Defined Networking (SDN), Software Defined Wide-Area Networking (SD-WAN) and Intent-Based Networking (IBN) will become more common and will simplify the work of network managers by allowing them to more finely tailor network policies to a business’ needs. However, some investments may be necessary before the full benefit of SDN can be realized.
No. 9 With the proliferation of 5G technologies, there will be greater need for businesses to deploy more sophisticated identity, credential and access management.
No. 10 Given the nature of 5G technology, businesses should default to a Zero Trust (ZT) posture to ensure security. This starts with the assumption that the network is inherently hostile and insecure at all times. However, authorized network participants must be able to carry out their activities without additional burdens imposed on them.
The white paper concludes with four recommendations. First, companies should survey the technology landscape. Reading the white paper and others like it on the topic of 5G is a good place to start. Second, companies should assess if there’s a business case for these technologies and should do so by pursuing small, discrete technology pilots before making larger investments. Third, companies should upskill their network managers to enable them to confront the challenges that will accompany the shift to 5G technology. And fourth, companies should collaborate with established technology service providers as well as emerging tech startups and with other incumbents across industry verticals to learn from one another about best practices in the acquisition and implementation of 5G and related technologies.
If you are a team working on innovations that you believe have the potential to significantly refashion global supply chains, we’d love to tell your story in FreightWaves. I am easy to reach on LinkedIn and Twitter. Alternatively, you can reach out to any member of the editorial team at FreightWaves at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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