The Rohde & Swharz Group is fully committed to Industry 4.0, one of the group's main themes of evolution. But to ensure a truly connected industry, communication protocols must coexist and transmissions must be secure. A challenge for R&D teams... The leaders of the group's French subsidiary share their vision of the industry, 5G, 6G and everything that makes the daily life of an industry with a vision of the future. To listen thanks to this episode of Métrolaudio. And we make the transcript available below!
Who are you?
Stephane Bringué: My name is Stéphane Bringué, I am the director of Rohde & Schwarz France. I joined the Rohde & Schwarz Group a little over 18 years ago, at the head of another French subsidiary – I will come back to this a little later in the interview. And I took up my position here at Rohde & Schwarz France in October 2019, succeeding my predecessor, Mr. Jean-Christophe Prunet, who had led it for more than 15 years.
But you're not alone, so who's next to you?
Matthias Charriot: Hello, I introduce myself, Matthias Charriot. So I am the commercial director Rohde & Schwarz France, and I joined the group a little over 2 years ago – shorter – and therefore in charge, effectively, of all the sales departments for Rohde & Schwarz France.
When we look at your website, you present yourself as a partner to shape the future in the triptych communication, information and security. Do these three areas have the same needs?
Stephane Bringué: So, I would say yes; nowadays, the three areas you just mentioned are put on the same level.
First of all, communication; communication in a hyperconnected world, in a world of Industry 4.0. Today, the Rohde & Schwarz group, historically known for its test and measurement instrumentation tools, has, for about ten years, diversified its product offer also in the communication sector. So, radio communication mainly, because we are a wireless company; but not only.
We have also added communication in the media, in the production of media, in the media production system, so in television, in radio, in the radio podcast.
Security. So, security, today, we talk about it everywhere: network security, data security. And the Rohde & Schwarz Group has also been promoting activities in the field of cybersecurity for about 10 years.
What do you do with cybersecurity?
Stephane Bringué: So, cybersecurity, today, already, we integrate it into our own solutions, into our own products. I will give an example. Today, our products handle a lot of data, instrumentation data, test and measurement data, and so we have integrated cyber bricks, especially data protection. I will give an example: the Cloud, today, the Cloud, data need to be protected. And we have integrated cloud access protection bricks, both in terms of data protection, data encryption, data integrity in our own products. That's the first thing we do with cybersecurity.
And then we also developed solutions for our customers, especially in the field of security. And so, when we talk about cybersecurity, today, we have a panoply of products – I will come back to this a little later – which range from the protection of communication links, to protect access to content, but also to the protection of terminals; so-called end points, terminals of use, secure end points. But also applications, since today we also provide solutions of what is called "Web Application Firewall", secure firewalls to protect our customers' applications.
So you have happily crossed the bar from hardware to software. Do you do both, today?
Stephane Bringué: We have indeed taken a step forward. The group, historically, has always been very well known, very strong in its hardware designs. But, by necessity, by the need of the markets, by the demand of our customers, I would say that today, we combine both hardware and software solutions, not only in the field of cybersecurity, but also in the application field, so all the operating software of our equipment.
More generally, what challenges are manufacturers facing today?
Stephane Bringué: So, I would say, today, if we try to look at the group, the general theme is that of safety in what is called Industry 4.0. And I would say that this is a major challenge for our business, so for our evolution, but also for our customers. That is, today, security in the industry has become predominant, and the requirements of our customers, not only in terms of radio performance, are today at the same level regarding the requirements for information protection and security.
So "Industry 4.0" is not just a concept, it's your daily life.
Stephane Bringué: Absolutely, it's our daily life. So I'm going to let Matthias outline what we're seeing in Industry 4.0 today. We have identified 5 themes, so I will let Matthias present them.
Matthias Charriot: 5 themes, indeed, are the challenges of tomorrow's industry, the so-called Industry 4.0.
The industry of tomorrow, today's industry, yesterday's industry?
Matthias Charriot: Of today and tomorrow, necessarily. It's starting. We will say that we are on the beginning, so it is the industry of tomorrow but we are starting to work on it, indeed.
So the first thing is security. We talk about security, but it's not just data security, it's infrastructure security, too, that is, access. So, it can go through a number of products to control access in factories, in companies; access by entering but also by leaving. You can imagine stocks where we actually control by scanners the part of the people who leave these factories. Then, of course, there is everything that is data security, because we had talked about cybersecurity.
And then, in Industry 4.0, there is everything that is infrastructure. What is infrastructure? Well, there we hear about the deployment of 5G – at the urban level, of course – but there are also networks. A 5G local network, in a company, you have to be able to do coverage, do quality service testing to be sure that in the company itself, there is no communication problem, and especially also the possibility of going to look at the data that takes place there. All this, behind, we are in an area where 5G, for example, well, there will be a whole bunch of connections. That is to say, 5G is about mobile phones, but it is also everything that affects the connected objects part.
I remind you that in 5G, you are going to have 3 main applications. The first is the amount of data that can be conveyed through 5G, so simply have throughput, data. The second is latency; so it affects everything that is automotive, that is to say the reaction time to have information. And the third is everything related to the amount of connected objects that can communicate together. So that, indeed, we will have to monitor and test it.
And behind that, you can imagine, if there are so many devices, so many connected objects – with radar pulses, with communication with satellites – well, we're going to have to test all this through what is called radio coexistence, or CEM tests. So Industry 4.0 brings together pretty much these four main themes, and transverse to all this, there is all that is services that can be given on each of these solutions.
5G may seem like an innovative concept, but remind me how many years have you been working in this field?
Stephane Bringué: Since the beginning of 5G, since the beginning of the standardization of the 5G standard, since the group is also an actor in standardization bodies. We will say, 5G, it has been more than 10 years, today, or even 15 years in terms of R&D, that the Rohde & Schwarz group is present in R&D. 5G is not new in terms of product for the group, but it is new in terms of applications, and in particular regarding radio coexistence. Radio coexistence is becoming a major problem, I would say, by the multiplicity of tools, not only connected objects, but also our customers' own devices – robots for example. So coexistence, CEM testing, OTA testing today – we have a lot of Over The Air coexistence to watch. So I would say, 5G is not new. Today, there is even talk of the evolution of 5G.
Matthias Charriot: That's right.
Stephane Bringué: Even 6G, it's also starting to discuss; not only in the industrial field, in the medical field as well, for reasons of latency as Matthias mentioned. So 5G is not new, but I would say, the group is capitalizing today on Industry 4.0 with the application areas of 5G and 5G coverage, mainly in factories, in industry.
Matthias Charriot: We see it today, we are in the deployment of 5G, it means that indeed, before deploying, we worked a lot on 5G ... That's why even now, we're starting to talk about 6G to be ready in future communication standards.
We are particularly interested in testing and measurement issues. What do you propose in this area, in this very specific activity?
Matthias Charriot: So, if we stick to the 5G part, already, there are all the devices to test; it can be mobiles, it can be connected objects, etc. Of course, ensure that these products transmit the signal according to a standard, to ensure interoperability between different types of products. So that's the first thing.
Then, it's all that we call in quotation marks – a bit barbaric word – "radiocom", so it's our CMW, CMX500 for example. So these are test systems that will come to test the devices. Of course, we can also test on the station side, that is to say on the transmitter side. So that's the first thing.
The second thing is that in 5G there is a whole system of antennas. So there, we have measurement instrumentations that make it possible to check these antenna arrays, so that we can calibrate them, and be sure that they are also in the standards, and at the specification level, that they are correct. So we're really on the device part.
Then there's everything related to the deployment part. What is deployment? An operator will want to deploy 5G on a network – urban or in a company, so a local network – in this case, it will be necessary to ensure that the coverage is good, that we can have the same quality of service regardless of the geographical area. And so, these are test systems; we can talk about ROMES, for example, in the software, which actually allow us to map the quality of service of an operator or a 5G or urban network system.
And around all this, there is what I call radio coexistence; so there, we often talk about CEM. What is CEM? We will look at a device, what it emits as interference, or if it is sensitive to interference, so in emissions at the level of Spurious. Well, what we are also looking at now is according to the European RED regulation, so radio coexistence, that is to say that IoT systems, 5G systems must coexist with its environment. And in its environment, you can have satellite signals. You can even have signals from automotive radars, which work at 77 GHz, you know? So it's starting to be high in frequencies.
Well, all these devices, we must test them in anechoic chambers, so as to make sure that we are immune to all the radio waves in our environment, and make sure that the devices work with each other even if we come to disturb them voluntarily. So, we start from the device to a deployment, and we look at the coexistence between the different systems at different frequencies.
So, the group has a special history, a special relationship with oscilloscopes. You tell me a little more?
Stephane Bringué:So, oscilloscopes, indeed, it's been a little 10 years since we started oscilloscopes. So we went into the field of the oscilloscope, with, let's say, another axis, that is to say that we gave the word "real time" really in the product. The oscilloscope is real time, it's acquisition. So what is our difference going to be? It's that we're going to put – I'm not going to go into the technique – between the ADC, the digitizer and the processor, we put a whole bunch of FPGAs or ASIS, which allow to do processing in real time.
This is where you will find on our oscilloscopes real-time high definition modes, with digital trigger conditions, so it means very precise, and at the bandwidth of the scope, without going into the field too specifically. And everything that is FFT treatment. We're an RF company, so spectrum, the first thing we look at is spectral purity. So we have an input stage with good spectral purity, which actually gives us a good analysis, good signal integrity.
So, there, now, recently, we are starting to effectively attack the field of digital, digital, so everything that is serial bus link – usb 3.0 type, PCI express, etc. by always including DSPs in real-time systems in our oscilloscopes, which allow us to check these serial links in a normative way or at the level of bugs.
Small information too, it is still that we use a lot of our oscilloscopes in everything that is debugging of CEM system, because since it is real time, we can easily go to capture interference that can be annoying on the devices, before sending the devices to test houses to do standardization, for example.
You are a global group. Do you notice differences in terms of the needs of your customers, the answers you provide them, according to geographical areas and in particular France?
Stephane Bringué: So, I believe that today, France, without exacerbated chauvinism, is a melting pot of market demand that corresponds to all the product lines that the group can offer. I gave it to you at the beginning of the interview, if we actually take the instrumentation sector, we are lucky, in France, to have the major industries, whether in the sector of industry, components, research; we also have a lot of research labs in France. The automotive industry; we are fortunate, indeed, in France, to be able to work with national manufacturers. We also have in France, I would say, the world of aerospace and defense, which is very, very well represented. So today we address on these 3 segments of the industry, I would say, all the products in the catalog of the group.
But not only. This is perhaps where we are less known, historically. We also address the world of defense and security through products that are always radios, but oriented defense / security.
But if I may, to come back to Industry 4.0, to go precisely to the infrastructure security part, I would like to talk about two product lines that we offer today in infrastructure security.
So, one that is topical today, in France, as at the international level, is what is called the fight against drones. You should know that today, the drone has become a threat, not only for States, but also for industrialists. And so, the group has also developed in recent years anti-drone radio solutions that can detect, locate, identify drones approaching a site.
And after identification?
Stephane Bringué: So, we, our job, as you have understood, is radio. So we provide sensors, radio sensors that make it possible to identify, detect and classify. What our customers do after, I would say, is outside our scope. What you need to know is that an effective anti-drone fight is not only the radio sensors I have just told you about, but also the coupling to other sensors, so other manufacturers, other partners, which couple video sensors, radar sensors, acoustic sensors to identify more precisely and in a wider coverage the drone threat. And the next step, I would say, is the responsibility of the users.
So we, the Rohde & Schwarz group, to answer your question, have no solutions, I would say, of massive destruction of the term, of the drone. It does not fit into our ethics, and product line. So the fight against drones, today, we have developed solutions that are articulated around receivers and multichannel direction finding that make it possible to identify a flying object approaching a site.
Beyond the fight against drones, Matthias has already talked about it, we must also protect the sites, I would say, from threats that are this time human. And the group has started the development, based on radio and microwave technologies, of body safety scanners. So, we started this activity on the airport market to be able to develop and provide body scanner solutions to airport standards. So today, these products are already deployed, and I would say, in operation at a number of international airports.
But also, we have been able to develop, through this technology, body security scanners for critical sites, or storage sites, or sensitive industrial sites that effectively allow a very fast scanning of incoming and outgoing personnel, not only in the industry, but also, finally, we realized that this technology could be used in events, the protection of sporting events, for example, musical events. Today, we meet other standards, which are not airport standards, this time, which are operating standards, I would say, of public millimeter scanners, which make it possible to protect incoming / outgoing access to infrastructure.
So here too, we are part of the infrastructure protection of Industry 4.0, but it goes a little further, since today, as you know, France will organize in the short term the Rugby Cup in 2022, followed, I hope, by the Olympics in 2024. And this is the type of instrumentation – because we can call it instrumentation – where the Rohde & Schwarz group and our subsidiary in France must be present to meet the safety of events.
More generally, how is R&D, at home, within the group, going?
Stephane Bringué: R&D remains in the group's DNA. Today, you should know that the group, overall, if I take the figures for the year ended, invests about half a billion in R&D. Some figures too, 1 in 4 employees of the group is now assimilated to a laboratory of any kind.
So, the majority of Research & Development remains in Germany, today, for more than 60%, but not only. So we also have Research & Development in Asia, on many hubs based in Singapore.
And then, over the years, I would say, we have made strategic acquisitions with companies that are now part of the Rohde & Schwarz group and that have their own product development and research unit in particular areas. So in summary, a little more than 500 million euros of annual investment in Research and Development, spread over the German territory and some world countries.
So, in France, I can say it – not in our subsidiary Rohde & Schwarz France, but in two other subsidiaries of the group in France. I can also give the names: a subsidiary called Rohde & Schwarz Cybersecurity France, which has a Research & Development unit based in Montpellier in the field of application cybersecurity, with a development of Web Application Firewalls – WAF – in particular; and then another subsidiary based in the South of France in La Ciotat, which I managed for about fifteen years, which acts in the identification and analysis of satellite communication signals with its own development unit of about twenty experts in the field of satellite radio.
Stéphane Bringué and Matthias Charriot, thank you and I leave you the last word.
Matthias Charriot: What more can I say, welcome to Industry 4.0. We will actually be there to support all this activity, and always with a transversal solution which is the service, because customers do not only ask for products, but a global solution. One last word is to say [that] customers, what they expect is no longer to buy a product; it's buying a solution. That is what has changed. And in the solution, there is always the notion of service as well. And so, the proximity part is important for them.
Stephane Bringué: Well, I might take up our group's vision, which is "a more secure world in an ultra-connected world". Today, I believe that Industry 4.0, the theme of which we have discussed today, is one of the areas, I would say, of the group's evolution. But making the world more secure in this ultra-connected world is our vision, and I would even say our mission at least for the next ten years.
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