DOD’s 5G-powered smart warehouse network kicks off

A private 5G wireless network is being installed as part of a multi-year initiative to create a smart warehouse reference design.

The Marine Corps Logistics Command in Albany, Ga., is gearing up for a 5G-enabled smart warehouse that will feature robotics, barcode scanning and holographic, augmented and virtual reality applications to help manage storage and maintenance of vehicles, materiel and supplies.

A Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS)-enabled private 5G wireless network is being installed as part of a multi-year initiative to create a 5G smart warehouse reference design. The framework will help the Marines increase the efficiency and dependability of warehouse operations, including improvements to receipt, storage, issuance, inventory control and auditability, according to a press statement from Federated Wireless, the project’s prime contractor. 

The Department of Defense wants “to look at this more as an enterprise, use these initial efforts in prototyping to then build reference designs to move forward,” Sal D’Itri, vice president and general manager of the federal business unit for Federated Wireless told RCRwireless News. Federated is also supporting a DOD CBRS network at Fort Carson, Colo., for on-base autonomous vehicles, he said. 

The end-to-end network in Albany leverages CBRS shared spectrum along with millimeter wave spectrum to create a robust 5G private wireless network. It will use Open RAN, a virtualized 5G packet core and mobile edge compute to support industrial internet-of-things applications.

Cisco will deploy a converged SDN transport network architecture and mobile edge processing, and JMA is providing a full end-to-end RAN solution that includes advanced millimeter-wave radios. Amazon Web Services’ AWS Snowcone edge computing and data transfer device will collect, process, and move data in disconnected environments. Vectrus and Perspecta Labs are helping with security and risk management, and Capstone Partners, a 5G and IoT strategic advisory firm, brought IKIN to the project where it will deploy holographic capabilities for locating, identifying and retrieving materials without having to move or open packaging.

“The DOD has long led the way in adoption and optimization of cutting-edge technologies like CBRS,” said Kyung Mun, principal analyst at Mobile Experts, a communications market analysis firm. “The experiences it has and benefits it derives from this deployment will serve as a beacon for others working to adopt and deploy shared spectrum at scale.”

Work on the testbeds will last approximately three years, with the first year dedicated to set up. Full-scale experimentation will happen by year two, DOD officials said.

The smart warehouse effort is part of Tranche 1 of the Defense Department’s larger 5G initiative, providing a venue for contractors and the military to experiment with 5G technologies. “These sandboxing activities at military bases harness the department's unique authorities to pursue bold innovations and game changing technologies,” then-acting Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Michael Kratsios said in October.

Also experimenting with smart warehousing is Naval Base San Diego. The 5G-enabled smart warehouse experiment there will be  focused on transshipment between shore facilities and naval units and increasing the efficiency of naval logistic operations, including identification, recording, organization, storage, retrieval and transportation of materiel and supplies.  It will also be a proving ground for real-time asset tracking, predictive analytics, environmental sensing, robotics and augmented reality, DOD officials said in January.

This article first appeared on GCN, a Defense Systems partner site. 

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