5G represents the latest iteration of mobile networks and is poised to revolutionize the world of connectivity. This advanced technology promises to enhance connectivity by offering faster download and upload speeds, lower latency, and higher reliability. The widespread implementation of 5G is expected to trigger a major transformation across numerous industries and sectors, such as healthcare, transportation, education, and entertainment.
However, the relatively bigger changes will still take time to materialize all over the world. This article discusses both the current and the future impacts of 5G.
Work from anywhere and productivity
5G has been ubiquitous and that has fuelled both the gig economy and the work-from-anywhere phenomenon. Both freelancers and full-time employees have been working from anywhere while continuing to be productive. Contrast this with the working situation earlier – you were location-bound because of the availability of connectivity. 5G has significantly lower latency than its predecessor enabling workers to seamlessly participate in high bandwidth-consuming activities like video calls, and upload files to servers with significantly lower risks of failure. According to Gartner, by 2025, 75% of all enterprise data will move to the edge networks which will not only increase the speeds but also limit latency more. The work-from-anywhere phenomenon will get a huge boost. This is also expected to boost the morale of employees because they’re given the liberty and flexibility to choose where and how they work. It’s believed that progressive organizations are going to enable their employees to be more accountable for their work by providing them with increased flexibility. 5G will make the working location irrelevant.
Transportation and commuting redefined
The deployment of 5G in the transportation sector will lead to the development of self-driving cars. Its low latency and high reliability will allow for efficient communication between vehicles and infrastructure, which will make autonomous driving more secure and dependable.
5G has the potential to redefine our commuting experience. We’re looking at a future of connected vehicles that will radically change our commuting experiences. Let’s understand this with a few scenarios or use cases.
Scenario 1: an ambulance is taking a critical patient to the hospital and every second counts. It’s the peak traffic hour and the driver wants to identify the shortest and congestion-free road. Connected traffic signals send data to the ambulance about the traffic conditions on various approaches to the hospital and the driver identifies the quickest approach.
Scenario 2: you’re out with your family for dinner on a festive night and you know that finding a parking spot is a challenge in these conditions. As you drive, the connected systems on your vehicle can identify all parking places closest to the restaurant. Connected parking places transmit live data on the parking availability to your car enabling you to choose the best option.
The education sector is also set to benefit considerably from 5G. Its high-speed internet will make remote learning more accessible, allowing students to participate effortlessly in virtual classrooms.
Medical treatment redefined
5G is going to transform how medical treatment is delivered and solve many lingering problems.
One, the whole medical system generates humongous volumes of patient data such as age, medical history, treatment plan, and medicines. Hospitals and clinics need to access the data to provide better and tailored treatment but internet speeds and latency pose challenges in data transmission. 5G is going to make it possible to transfer huge data files in a few seconds.
Two, connected wearable devices can transmit – as they’ve already been doing – critical data to the doctors. For example, wearable smartwatches can transmit data on heart rate, oxygen saturation, blood pressure, and sleep quality. These devices can even send alerts to hospitals if the patient collapses or the vitals show abnormality. The wearable industry is already exploding. According to a report by Accenture, the usage of wearable health tech has risen from 17% in 2020 to 24% in 2021. These wearables have mobile personal emergency response systems (PERS) that can be a massive help for patients with chronic conditions and lower response times in case of an emergency.
5G has multiple use cases in manufacturing. It can significantly uplift how manufacturing is being done now and we already have a few examples. Let’s examine two use cases.
One, 5G can enable a smart factory where all production assets are connected. The factory supervisor or manager doesn’t need to be physically present to monitor and manage the production. Instead, the smart factory sends data on production assets to the manager’s system and the manager can remotely guide the robots to automate various tasks. This approach not only hugely improves production efficiency in terms of time, quality, and accuracy but also significantly reduces the chances of accidents while performing hazardous tasks. Siemens has already used this approach in its Transformers factory in Mexico. It has run its Factory Acceptance Tests (FAT) that were a success. Note that such operations are totally dependent on extremely efficient connectivity because they consume a lot of data and there must be minimal or no latency.
Another use case is optimizing production assets through smarter use of data. Unplanned downtime has been one of the biggest problems for manufacturers. It prevents optimum usage of assets. In the US, unplanned downtime costs US$50 billion on account of equipment failures. Smart factories can transmit live data about various types of equipment and that enables the stakeholders to identify the health of the types of equipment. They can take preventive steps to prevent breakdowns by identifying the right time for repair.
5G has realized its possibilities only partially and given the promise it makes, it seems practically a long time before the whole potential can be realized across the world. There are many technical, ethical, and legal issues that need to be addressed. For example, implementing a smart factory is difficult because of the possible loss of human employment. In countries like Germany and Switzerland, labor laws are explicit and unyielding and organizations may find it extremely difficult to deploy robots after displacing human labor. Technically, the 5G rollout faces many technical challenges across the globe. In certain countries, though 5G has been officially rolled out, the efficiency has not been consistently at the level that was expected. Lastly, in the medical field, there will be a huge debate over the sharing of patient confidential data.