Why is 5G one of the most anxiously awaited technologies in recent memory, and why is it so geopolitically consequential? Because 5G has the potential to change the world.
Between 2018 and 2025, operators and investors will bet about $1 trillion globally on 5G becoming the de-facto wireless communication standard worldwide. This bet is certainly a safe one for multiple reasons, and many of them have to do with the changes that 5G heralds for the Internet of Things.
Here are six ways 5G will change the IoT for the better:
1. Far Easier Setup
The promised 100-fold increases in speed — although considerable — won’t be the only obvious way 5G improves current-generation protocols.
You can think of 5G as a kind of next-generation Wi-Fi. You’re used to using a central router in your home or workplace that sends out radio waves to any devices in the vicinity so that they can use Wi-Fi to connect to the internet. Desktops, laptops, telephones, smart home devices, watches, bathroom scales, refrigerators and all our other internet-connected items currently use these routers to function.
Instead, 5G connectivity will let each device connect wirelessly, individually and directly to your internet service provider. We’ll want to use routers for a while yet as carriers further develop our 5G infrastructure and electronics companies make devices that can maintain connectivity while using little power.
But in a few years, households and businesses will be able to design and roll out complete IoT installations in far less time than before, thanks to direct connectivity.
2. New Business Models
According to Nokia, one of the expected outcomes of wider 5G adoption is the promise of new business models and new ways to deliver service to wireless customers for all of their IoT devices — business locations included.
“Network slicing,” according to Nokia, will bring opportunities that weren’t possible with 4G or earlier technologies. Network slicing involves using the same underlying infrastructure for all customers. However, developers would create highly differentiated and personalized QoS (Quality of Service) tiers and packages of features for different customer types.
In other words, 5G will do away with one-size-fits-all packages for business customers with many types of devices to bring online.
Nokia predicts network slicing could improve operating margins for service providers by 5 percent, and as many as 15 percent of current internet subscribers would be interested in “premium” services. The speed and flexibility of 5G will deliver on that desire.
3. Help Smart Cities Come of Age
Cities have always been our centers of socialization and economic and technological progress. According to the United Nations, 68 percent of the world’s population will live in urban areas by 2050, further cementing the importance of these steel and concrete monuments to the human spirit.
Economists don’t always agree on the best way of growing these economies for the good of Main Street and Wall Street alike. But, one popular argument recommends investing in our infrastructure, our cities and efficient living for all.
About 75 percent of America’s GDP flows from its 100 biggest metropolitan areas, according to the Brookings Institute.
Smart cities are a smart idea, and 5G will help the concept come of age. To create these cities, workers will:
- Use sensors and big data to design towns from the ground up for more efficient vehicle and foot traffic.
- Use wireless technology to help cars communicate with one another and civic infrastructure.
- Provide numerous other ways for businesses and citizens to receive or distribute goods and information or travel from place to place using 5G technology.
Cities everywhere can begin achieving far higher economic competitiveness and inclusiveness by making investments in this technology. The implementation of 5G will facilitate even smoother and more capable networks in cities and will help bring technologies like autonomous vehicles into wider usage.
4. Improve Agricultural Management
Big concepts like the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence seemed to blossom into fully realized products in a few short years.
Microsoft, for example, regularly runs commercials touting the power of their artificial intelligence in helping farmers predict and maximize crop yields and minimize the use of water, pesticides and fertilizers.
This moment is hugely important for such innovations. However, AI is just one piece of the puzzle. IoT is the mechanism acting as the eyes and ears while funneling huge quantities of useful data to environmental sensors and connected farming equipment.
Given that the world’s population will reach 9.6 billion by 2050, it makes sense to invest in IoT now. Then, we can begin reaping insights into soil and environment health and how best to use our resources.
5. Make Resource Management More Effective
Agricultural concerns are only the beginning when it comes to 5G and taking huge leaps in connectivity and functionality. Companies that wish to engage in resource and facility management using IoT will find sensors more cost-effective than ever. They can add these sensors to nearly everything, from material handling and manufacturing equipment to the vehicles moving raw materials between facilities.
The means fully connecting our supply chains will be possible with 5G. Data will be able to flow much more freely between business partners and within organizations.
6. Connecting Underserved Communities
Consumers and companies alike will benefit from 5G technology, and health care delivery is a prime example. Although a substantial portion of the population lives in city centers, outlying communities and rural areas around the world frequently suffer from a lack of access to infrastructure and services — medicine included.
Telemedicine will become a far more viable tool in hospitals and private practices with the power of 5G. Health wearables have demonstrated effectiveness in helping flag health issues in at-risk populations and improving patient outcomes in various ways.
Smoother, no-setup connectivity with 5G could bring even more meaningful functionality to patients and their doctors. For example, 5G could help important data — which could signal future health issues — change hands more quickly.
Having reliable, high-speed wireless internet more widely available will improve the quality of other telemedicine services too, including patient-nurse and patient-doctor video conferences.
Telemedicine reduces unnecessary emergency room visits by almost 7 percent, which is critical for people who live beyond city centers and those who don’t find travel easy or convenient.
5G’s Contributions Set to Continue
In an abundance of ways, 5G is set to bring IoT into the consumer and business mainstream. From there, we’re only beginning to understand its full implications and opportunities.