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The Internet of Things (IoT) is rapidly developing and expanding. Many things that were on the drawing board only a few years or even months ago are now becoming reality. One limiting factor, however, has always been bandwidth. Cellular networks have a good range but limited bandwidth. Wi-fi has good bandwidth but limited range, and can be a challenge to secure.
One thing which might change that is the growth of 5G. 5G will increase cellular bandwidth by huge amounts, making it much easier for the Internet of Things to network large numbers of devices together.
5G is the next-generation cellular network. 4G, the current standard, offers speeds ranging from 7 mbps to 17 mbps for upload and 12 to 36 for download. In contrast, 5G transmission speeds may be as high as 15 or 20 Gbps. Not megabytes, gigabytes. Latency will also be ten times less, and the number of devices that can be connected scales up greatly. To put this practically: A 5G phone will be able to load a full-length feature film, in HD, in a matter of seconds.
5G will thus remove all of the current limitations on bandwidth, at least until usage scales up to keep up with it.
There are a number of ways in which 5G will be a gamechanger for the Internet of Things going forward.
The increase in the number of connected devices will allow for many more sensors to be deployed in smart cities and buildings. Right now, smart city sensors are generally relatively limited; they’re put on lamp posts and cover the area very coarsely. For better or worse, 5G allows for saturation of an area with small sensors. This allows for uses that range from detecting pedestrian movement to turn on lighting – with current systems, it’s possible to have issues with the lights failing to detect a stationary person and going back off.
Inside buildings, Bluetooth technology is already creating the ability to track people, vehicles, and equipment. 5G, however, will allow for the transmission of a lot more data with the Internet of Things. Imagine hospital beds that constantly update doctors on the vital signs of the patient within.
Imagine how a smart city with thousands of cameras could direct people around traffic accidents, or tell people where there are places to park. On top of that, autonomous vehicles will begin to take off. 5G networking with IoT allows cars to talk to each other and their environment, reducing the risk of accidents and allowing for far more efficient traffic patterns. Combining all these things will reduce traffic jams, shorten commute times, and save energy by reducing the amount of time vehicles need to idle at red lights or wait in line.
Cars could also record the condition of their oil or brakes, notifying the owner and connecting them directly to their chosen repair facility. Not only that, but self-driving cars could record and transmit data back to their manufacturers that could then be used to improve both the software and future designs.
Telehealth, right now, is subject to the potential of blackouts, and to poor connectivity for those most in need of it; those in rural areas where a doctor may be an hours-long drive away.
5G will increase internet speeds in remote areas and may allow for such things as specialist surgeons working, via robot, in small rural clinics. Combined with the personal medical kits being worked on, it will also allow for people with contagious diseases to be diagnosed remotely, without having to come into an office or hospital and spread it around.
Wearable health monitors increase patient engagement and improve outcomes, and are expected to reduce hospital costs; thus freeing up money that can be better spent elsewhere.
Imagine walking into a store and having your phone… or better yet, your AR glasses, tell you where the item you are looking for is. Imagine that you can look at a dress and your gear will pull up a picture of how it will look on you using virtual reality. Smart tags and digital signage will allow for a much smoother and more fun shopping experience. Ultimately, there may even be clothing printers that take your measurements and instantly make the clothes in your size.
If going to a restaurant, 5G and Internet of Things would allow your phone to connect to the network and transmit to the hostess the number of people in your party, any food allergies, etc, before you even walk in the door.
Factories and warehouses are already using real-time tracking for inventory control and to track parts, products, and equipment throughout the entire cycle thanks to IoT in manufacturing. 5G promises the ability to use a single system to, for example, track a product from manufacturing to the end-user, seamlessly, without any need to check it in or out and with the vendor being alerted when a product is delivered… and when one is “lost in the mail.” Integrating supply chains will reduce costs, allow for better customer service, and reduce the loss of product in transit. Such 5G tags, if cheap enough, could also reduce porch banditry by allowing law enforcement to track missing parcels.
For the industry, it would allow for tracking of production bottlenecks, and improvement of processes.
One of the best things about 5G is the ability to implement virtual networks. These will create subnets that can have different traffic priorities. For example, in a hospital, the network could be designed to ensure that a connection between a surgeon and a robot was prioritized over, for example, communications being used by patients. Emergency transmissions can thus be protected even if the network is reaching capacity.
The internet of things is going to transform our lives over the next few years; and 5G is, as it slowly rolls out, going to enable much more far-reaching connectivity. Our cities will get smarter, our cars will get smarter, and our packages will tell us when they arrive on our doorstep. The 5G revolution is coming, and it’s going to look quite interesting indeed. Get in touch with the experts at Davra to find out more about how 5G and the IoT can help your organization.
Brian McGlynn, Davra, COO
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