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Telecom giant, Midwest researchers partner on energy-efficient manufacturing

Midwestern university researchers are teaming up with a telecom giant to find ways to solve climate problems. The Purdue Research Foundation in Indiana joined AT&T’s Connected Climate Initiative, with a main goal of incorporating new technologies to improve industrial manufacturing power management.

Purdue will examine the potential of 5G-enabled wireless technologies to improve energy efficiency and reduce emissions for advanced manufacturing applications. AT&T is providing funding for the research project.

“We know the most impactful opportunities often come at the intersection of research and communities, and private partners can be tremendously helpful for understanding the user experience and how technology can be used to solve challenges in local communities,” Troy Hege, vice president of innovation and technology for the Purdue Research Foundation, said in a news release.

For this project, the research foundation also is partnering with the Indiana 5G Zone, a recently launched innovation hub in Indianapolis for developing and testing new 5G technologies. 

“5G has the potential to transform the industrial manufacturing sector by connecting machinery and delivering near real-time performance information to help uncover hidden inefficiencies and drive down energy use and emissions,” said Sean Hendrix, managing director of the Indiana 5G Zone. “We’re looking forward to modeling a factory environment in our downtown Indianapolis lab and exploring the power of 5G and edge computing to make manufacturing more environmentally sustainable.”

Last year, AT&T partnered with Purdue and the Indiana 5G Zone to create a testbed for 5G cybersecurity technologies adjacent to campus. The company reiterated its desire to develop uses for 5G besides smartphones. A few months later, AT&T partnered with the University of Missouri to establish a similar research lab pushing for new 5G applications.

“5G is not the answer, it’s a catalyst,” said Ajay Vinzé, University of Missouri business school dean. “It will be an enabler for innovation.”

Participation in the climate initiative lets students and faculty work with companies outside of university labs to solve real-world problems and to accelerate new technology commercialization.