The 5th generation network (5G) is slowly becoming a reality and it promises more than just faster downloads of your favourite shows for you to watch on your daily commute – when we get back to them, that is.
There is no doubt that 5G is shaping a new digital ecosystem of inter-connectivity. However, the question is; how will this evolution, from “just another network” to a robust ecosystem, affect not just our daily lives as consumers but also innovation within the tech industry.
I can’t begin to think of the many applications we will see off the back of 5G in the near future, but according to Dr. David Teece of Qualcomm “5G will propel mobile into a unified fabric connecting people to everything” and could produce up to $12.3 trillion worth of goods and services enabled by 2035.
There is a lot of focus on speed when it comes to reviewing 5G, and while it is an important part of the equation the main benefits will be seen in reduced latency. Many companies invest a lot into R&D to ensure low latency of their products and solutions. However, due to underlying technological limitations, there is only so much that can be achieved. 4G networks, for example, have latency of around 40-50 milliseconds, whereas with 5G it can be as low as less than 1 millisecond. This means that devices can communicate “in real time”, opening a new realm of product opportunities and enhancements.
This will have considerable impact on a number of industries:
Driver-less cars: Enabling vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-roadside infrastructure communications, with low latency, is one of the keys to ensuring true autonomy is achieved safely. At the moment, that 40 millisecond delay is a massive safety concern when introducing driver-less cars to real-world scenarios.
Smart roads’ infrastructure: Imagine the M25 on a Friday afternoon; there’s a sea of cars and a whole network of cameras and operators covering every inch of the road, ensuring traffic is running smoothly…and it still isn’t. With this digitised ecosystem, time spent in traffic can be reduced significantly, not only easing our road-rage tendencies but also having a major impact on the economy at large.
5G provides a vital core for the development of robotic and remote surgery with the aim to diminish geographical boundaries for some of the most complex medical interventions and surgeries where there is a limited number of specialist surgeons. In addition to this, it is looking to free up time for GP appointments with an estimated £1.3 billion in savings for the NHS, according to the telecoms giant 02.
Data & Cloud Computing
Instead of heavily relying on hardware limitations, 5G devices will be able to perform heavy computing tasks in the cloud with increased efficiency at a fraction of the cost.
Industrial automation is essential to improve the rate of efficiency of production. Instead of using cheap labour workforce in order to keep production costs low, it is expected that manufacturing will evolve into intelligently connected production information systems through the use of automated systems and robots, seamlessly communicating with each other as well as humans can.
In addition to this, companies have began implementing VR and AR technologies for training their employees, as well as maintenance applications – which brings us to the final emerging industry that is linked to 5G;
Virtual Reality (VR) applications are heavily reliant on the processing power of the devices themselves, as well as the speed and latency of networks when it comes to streaming this media.
The current 4G technology has somewhat restricted the true collaborative AR/VR applications between two – or more – devices. 5G will enable the mobility which these resource-heavy applications need, and could leave us with cheaper and lighter hardware in our daily lives because, as brilliant as they may be, no one can exactly imagine devices such as Oculus Rift as a fashion accessory.