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The internet of things is a hot topic, fueled in part by recent and continuous developments with 5G and improved internet access. Not only will rural societies benefit positively from the improved coverage gained from 5G, but the technology will evolve and as 5G integrates with IoT, we will reach new heights and disrupt many sectors of products and services.
First, before we examine the fusing of 5G and IoT market, let’s look at the power of each individually.
5G: What is it?
5G can be defined as the latest in mobile wireless technologies. Often when people discuss 5G, they detail the improved bandwidth speeds, ultra low-latency levels, and the ability to download full-length ‘HD movies’ in seconds (as is already enjoyed in South Korea), however 5G’s capacity for impact lies far beyond these few use cases.
One of the main differences with 5G, relative to LTE or 4G, are the 5G cell towers, both physically and functionally. While 5G requires more towers to cover their limited range, each tower is much smaller and transmits data on a different frequency. Rather than large macrocells (such as today’s cell towers), these “small cells” are roughly the size of a pizza box and can be placed on buildings, lamp-posts, or on constructed (yet less invasive) towers.
With this new generation of improvements, users will need to upgrade their mobile or handheld devices in order to access 5G, and as with all great new technologies, it is likely that 5G will become wholly ingrained in society within several years of its release.
IoT: What is it?
IoT refers to any physical item, such as hardware or clothing, or any device for that matter, which is connected to the internet. In short, IoT is the bridge between us and the internet; through mobile technologies, voice-assistants, bluetooth sensors, wifi-controlled lights, or smart locks.
Over the last decade, IoT integration into our lives has increased exponentially, from 15.4bn devices connected in 2015 to an expected 26.6bn in 2019, and looking further, 75.4bn devices by 2025.
5G + IoT, the perfect pair
Since 5G improves bandwidth speeds, connectivity, and latency issues, it seems like an ideal complement for IoT, relying on communication between distinct devices. With an ever-increasing number of IoT devices going online, 5G will likely create a more friendly environment for communication.
Looking to how 5G+IoT will improve specific industries, we can highlight some specific use-cases within sectors:
As can be imagined, autonomous vehicles generate a lot of data, measuring geographic coordinates, traffic conditions, weather and position relative to other objects. With this sheer volume of data, the vehicles must be able to pass this information quickly to other devices nearby and in surrounding areas. What 5G affords is a high-speed, low latency way to pass these data coordinates, and other pieces of information, to other vehicles to provide safe, and efficient, services. Here are several companies in the 5G, autonomous vehicle space:
5G and IoT can help transform cities to harness data. Cities could ne optimized with data sensors for footfall and weather patterns to inform future urban planning and design. Even solely with the data captured from autonomous vehicles, cities can optimize traffic through more connected lights and systems, basing information from current traffic flow rather than historic patterns. Here are some companies or projects in the 5G and hyper-connected city space:
Next Generation Healthcare
Another sector that could be impacted is healthcare. With a faster, more connected hospital, patient records could be accessed by medical devices and updated in real time. Moreover, remote surgeries and telemedicine could be improved with reduced latency and expanded access (to rural areas).
Currently, the available infrastructure is not at the level required for full 5G-IoT integration, and it will still be quite some time before the world is equipped to reap the full benefits from the 5G and IoT waves, however, once integrated, not only will the improvements impact how we currently do business, but also reshape the nature of business itself.