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CampusOS – 5G Campus Networks Set to Make Smart Factories a Reality

The digital transformation is opening up enormous opportunities for intralogistics, but also brings a number of challenges. The future vision is for vehicles, products, machines, and people to be even more connected via networks and communicate with one another in real time, with the objective of reducing latency times, increasing data rates and ensuring the utmost reliability. The current solution to this is 5G. As a member of the CampusOS research project, the KION Group wants to make a meaningful contribution to driving this development and pave the way for the emergence of smart factories.


Industry 4.0 is not only changing markets and customer expectations but is also creating new challenges for the entire manufacturing environment. Conventional factories are set to be transformed into factories of the future, known as ‘smart factories’, where the production process is networked, smart, and self-optimizing. This will allow manufacturers to improve their just-in-time production, make their production sites more agile, and find communication solutions for digital processes.

In terms of meeting these challenges, 5G technology is a promising solution. 5G has a high bandwidth, which improves the stability and performance of the connection. This allows data to be transmitted in real time and processed in much larger quantities. But 5G is also continuously evolving through open approaches and adapting more closely to industry demands.

A development that is of paramount importance for the KION Group. Using 5G Campus Networks, entire fleets of automated guided vehicles (AGVs) can be coordinated in even the tightest of spaces. What’s more, wireless production robots will be able to work seamlessly alongside humans thanks to rapid, wireless communication. “We want to actively promote this technological shift whilst also identifying potential solutions that enable the market to develop more quickly, which will ultimately benefit us too,” says Ansgar Bergmann, Project Leader for Robotics & Data at the KION Group and representative of the company within CampusOS.

Ansgar Bergman is the representative of the company within Campus OS. He says: “The KION Group offers its customers integrated supply chain and material handling solutions. 5G is a key component of this approach and is set to enable the creation of warehouses in which all products and solutions work together in perfect synergy”.

CampusOS – Innovative Solutions for 5G Campus Networks

Thanks to its durability and high transmission power, 5G technology has the potential to accelerate the digital transformation. Despite showing great promise, demand on the market is currently far lower than was initially expected, including among customers of the KION Group. The CampusOS flagship project aims to change that. Its objective is to promote the roll-out of 5G campus networks and offer more cost-effective networks by developing a component catalog.

In order to achieve this, CampusOS looks at “reference test sites”. This involves analyzing relevant scenarios from industry projects in which 5G campus networks are being used and identifying key functionalities, technological components, and interfaces that are ultimately necessary for installation and operation. “Technology is an enabler. But what does that mean in terms of day-to-day business? What are the overall operating costs? What might such a system ultimately look like? Which elements do I really need? These are all questions we need to ask ourselves,” explains Bergmann. Once these elements have been defined, CampusOS intends to produce a catalog of the technical components and tools required for creating specialized campus networks. The intention is to facilitate access to 5G technology, reduce installation costs, and increase demand.

The KION Group was included in the project as a premium user and a pioneer in the study of 5G networks. The intralogistics expert is represented via a number of applications, and is investigating what optimized component solutions in 5G networks might look like and how future-proof the technologies are.

The CampusOS flagship project is being coordinated by the Fraunhofer Institutes HHI and FOKUS, and is sponsored by the German Federal Ministry for the Economy and Climate Protection (BMWK). A 5G campus network is already in use at the KION site in Hamburg. It was installed in order to improve in-house transport processes and to increase safety in warehouse areas.

How a 5G Campus Network Functions

A 5G campus network is a wireless local area network that can be directly installed on a particular site. Unlike Wi-Fi, it is based on cellular technology. “Everyone has Wi-Fi at home, and can see their neighbor’s Wi-Fi network too. When this significantly impairs your own service, it can be really irritating. That’s not a problem with campus networks as they use their own dedicated frequency in the range between 3.7 and 3.8 GHz, a range that is not used by the public. This makes it possible to achieve uninterrupted communication with no risk of the connection dropping out, all whilst ensuring very high transmission speeds,” explains Bergmann.

Another major benefit of 5G campus networks is that they are not limited in terms of the size of the area they can cover. All companies need to do is ensure that they have installed enough base stations on the site to allow the end devices to connect to the wireless network. This makes 5G campus networks a universal solution for intralogistics, as the size of the warehouse is irrelevant. Their key feature is consistent wireless coverage without interruptions when switching between radio cells, even over large areas, both indoors and outdoors.

5G Technology in Use at the KION Group

The first 5G campus network was put into operation in Hamburg in February 2022. KION is now also testing a 5G network in Heusenstamm and in Aschaffenburg. In Aschaffenburg, there is the largest area coverage with 5G, as outdoor areas are also included. At all three sites, KION is working with the hybrid model, i.e., the core technology is currently still WLAN: The equipped subareas that are already networked via 5G will provide insights into when and how to switch over completely.

KION mainly uses 5G for research projects at present. Bergmann and his colleagues are trying to establish which technologies work even better with 5G and in which areas of the company 5G coverage is possible. Of course, this expertise will benefit customers too, as it allows the KION Group to help customers with a range of different application profiles and give them the best possible advice on integrating 5G technology.

But there are already some specific plans in the pipeline, too: at KION subsidiary Dematic, 5G will in future play a supporting role in the assembly and commissioning of systems at construction sites. In the APAC region, 5G is already more widespread and is being tested in a range of scenarios. “We of course started by building networks to help us understand the technology so we can adapt our products to the technology as effectively as possible. What we now know for certain is that we can do even more. With 5G, we could achieve more stable communication with higher data rates. This would undoubtedly be beneficial in a smart factory,” explains Bergmann.

KION is also researching the possible use cases for 5G in the supply chain area. This involves studying how reliable communication can be ensured for multishuttle systems in complex metallic structures like high-bay storage warehouses.

Future Vision of a Smart Factory

Smart factories rely on a much more technologically advanced communications infrastructure than the one we use today. This means that further developments in 5G are needed. "Existing systems are primarily focused on downloading, as is the case with normal mobile networks. But in an industrial campus network, it's about efficiently uploading the data that products capture as they move through the warehouse and storing it in the cloud," says Bergmann, speaking from experience. To drive these developments forward, he is working closely with the manufacturer Ericsson. This is because for the new technologies, which are particularly geared toward vision, operators will have to significantly increase their local computing capacities, which will also lead to new challenges for 5G network manufacturers. 

However, a rapid transition to 5G can also be realized through non-private models. One example is a 5G campus network operated over a public operator's mobile network. Such models allow companies to gradually integrate 5G technology into their production processes without having to immediately install a full standalone network at their site. The first major market players are now starting to set up their new factories as hybrid facilities from the outset. This could mean that the "digital twin" of a warehouse will one day become a reality: a virtual representation of the actual warehouse environment in real time, based on data from sensors and cameras on the forklifts. Expert Ansgar Bergmann is certain: "In two to three years, 5G will be fully integrated." He adds, "We are making a clear commitment to this technology, all for the benefit of our customers."