One of the most exciting areas of innovation that 5G will enable is IoT (Internet of Things). The concept of IoT has been around for a while now, but before 5G, there were technical limitations that held back applications of the technology. The idea of having many connected things that operate anywhere is one with a potentially revolutionary impact, but the bandwidth limitations of 4G prevented businesses leveraging IoT on a large scale.
However, 5G offers speed and low latency of particular benefit to edge computing applications. As the name suggests, edge computing is when devices adjacent to the work - mobile devices, chips, and the like - can handle a lot of the computing power at the edge while connecting seamlessly with the cloud and primary network. This kind of distributed environment is essential for IoT. It allows for rapid response times while remaining connected to the entire environment, and 5G is the driving force.
To understand the role that 5G will have on IoT, it's first essential to know how these technologies interact.
Success with IoT rests on having many devices, sensors, and data sources connected at one time. Some parties project the number of IoT-connected devices will increase to 43 billion by 2023, representing nearly three times the number of devices in 2018.
What is the value of this? Consider the following scenarios:
Government organisations leverage technology to improve the efficiency with which their cities operate. In so-called smart cities, a key example is traffic lights where a network of AI-powered sensors that monitor traffic flow adjust the frequency of lights and therefore, reduces congestion. This network of AI (Artificial Intelligence) sensors collecting real-time data is responsible for feeding a hub that has a view of the entire city. It involves thousands of devices that require the reduced latency provided by 5G in keeping the network running at real-time.
For manufacturing, automation is the primary beneficiary of IoT. Rather than have dumb robots focused on task repetition, an IoT-enabled manufacturing environment could have various parts in the manufacturing chain talking in real-time to prevent disruption if something goes wrong, and maintain the quality of advanced manufacturing tasks. What's more, the manufacturing and logistics applications can be seamlessly integrated and automated to improve just-in-time manufacturing efficiency.
For healthcare, IoT-enabled devices, such as scales and monitors, can be used to improve patient care at home, giving the physician access to in-depth data insights in real-time. Wearables technology (IoT-enabled smartwatches) can help patients monitor their condition - for example, a device can help a person understand when they need an insulin shot. An IoT-powered asthma inhaler can be used to monitor the environment and provide information to the patient about air quality or other factors that might cause an asthma attack.
These are just some examples of how IoT can - and is - leveraged in real-world scenarios. However, the technology is applicable across all sectors and will kick-start a new wave of innovation and creativity that will ultimately result in more efficient and productive working environments.
With IoT, the benefit of 5G is not just about raw speed; though it will provide speeds of up to 2.7 times faster than 4G, individually, IoT sensors and chips don't need massive download speeds. Instead, 5G is vital to IoT because it can handle many connections quickly. The very largest deployments of IoT can involve billions of individual chips connected. In that context, it is significant that 5G can connect as many as a million devices per square kilometre, where 4G capped out at around 100,000 devices per square kilometre.
The other significant benefit of 5G over its predecessor is reduced latency (time in relaying information from sending to receiving devices). For 5G, latency is well below ten milliseconds, and in best-case scenarios can be just one millisecond. In contrast, 4G was 20 - 30 milliseconds.
This might not sound like much - it's milliseconds of difference - but it's significant for many IoT applications. Consider connected cars as an example. With self-driving vehicles, those milliseconds can mean the difference between a safe application and potential risk.
There are less life-critical benefits to such a low latency, too. Retailers, for example, can use the data from IoT devices to make rapid decisions on pricing and sales, comparison of stock availability in the warehouse, and even online announcements to maximise the returns, both in a physical and online retail environment. The closer the data feeds are from the connected devices to real-time, the more effective the retailer will be.
Brought together, the benefits that IoT delivered over 5G are:
IoT will be a revolutionary technology when paired with a leading 5G service provider. To learn more about how a massive network of connected devices powered by 5G can benefit your business, speak to Spintel - the only independent Telco with 5G Home wireless. Browse the plans or live chat with us here.