The newest generation of wireless networking—5G—is here! As the digital revolution continues to accelerate, so does the demand for data. This fact has made the need for high-speed, connected 5G networks imperative. 5G is the key to transmitting, processing, and storing the massive amounts of data that make our digital lives possible. How will 5G transform the industries of tomorrow? How can investors make the most of this new wave of opportunity? The answers may surprise you.
But first, it’s important to look at the basics of 5G.
5G is the fifth generation—and the largest leap forward—in wireless communication systems. In the past, we relied on wireless networks to connect us through mobile devices. The availability of 5G moves that function far beyond these basic touch points to fuel a technological revolution that few have yet to comprehend. 5G promises to deliver data speeds 10x faster than 4G LTE and handle 1,000x more traffic than today’s networks. This shift will impact we communicate, how we drive, and how we function in the world of tomorrow.
Each iteration of wireless systems has led to incredible new technological capabilities. 1G brought us the first analog cell phones. 2G introduced digital switching and enabled innovations such as text messaging, picture messaging, and MMS. With 3G came mobile access to the internet, video calling, and support for mobile apps. Then came 4G, which was transformative with its ability to handle up to 1Gbps. 4G LTE took the technology one step further, enabling simultaneous transmission of voice and data, as well as high definition streaming for video and gaming.
In the past, each new generation delivered a logical, sequential step forward in capabilities. 5G, on the other hand, is a true game changer that will supercharge us into the future. With the ability to handle up to 10Gbps, 5G will take the wireless data movement into true warp speed. Almost overnight, innovations like virtual & augmented reality, self-driving cars, smart factories, IoT, and life-saving healthcare innovations will be a reality. Even more, 5G will serve as a critical foundation for future industries that don’t even exist in our world today.
Here are just 5 areas where 5G is poised to have a major impact:
1. Virtual & Augmented Reality
Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) both rely on the use of headsets or eyewear to transmit digitally produced images, but they vary considerably in how they’re used. In virtual reality, images and experiences create a fully immersive 3D world that is simulated to create the illusion of existing in the computer-generated reality. In augmented reality, digital visuals and text are superimposed over a camera image of a real scene, enriching the user’s view of a real-world situation.
While both of these technologies are popular in the gaming world, their use is expanding quickly. For example:
- Virtual reality is used in healthcare, enabling physicians and dentists to perform surgical procedures in a virtual, risk-free environment.
- Augmented reality is used by the US military to train soldiers for real-world combat situations.
- Apple has applied for multiple patents in the graphics field, leading to rumors of a new lightweight headset as soon as 2020, as well as new software and apps that support AR and VR experiences.
That’s just the beginning—and 5G is expected to deliver the bandwidth, speed, and connectivity needed to eliminate lag times and optimize the user experience for both industrial and consumer accelerations. The result: mass adoption of AR and VR.
5G will expand the realm of digital reality beyond cellular devices, with VR capabilities becoming integrated into our vehicles, our homes, and our computers.
2. Self-Driving Cars
One of the most touted benefits of 5G is the potential for ‘level 5’ autonomy for self-driving vehicles: the ability to operate autonomously in all environments, all the time. It’s the Holy Grail for automakers, and something that is only possible with the assistance of 5G.
To operate effectively without this level of autonomy today, map-based solutions provide autonomous vehicles (AVs) with the data needed to navigate each ride, including planning a path from point A to point B. This restriction is why most self-driving car companies only test their fleets in certain major cities where they’ve developed detailed 3D maps that are meticulously labeled with the exact positions of traffic lanes, curbs, stop signs, and more.
While the mapping system has served its purpose of getting AVs on the road, wider adoption and acceptance will require the ability to operate safely in environments where maps do not currently exist: on millions of miles of unpaved roads, on unlit or unreliably marked streets, and anywhere and everywhere a person would want to drive.
In January, Ford announced plans to introduce C-V2X communications in its vehicles in 2022. Championed by ROBO Global index member Qualcomm and China’s Huawei, this cellular-vehicle-to-everything technology will create 360-degree awareness without requiring a line of site and provide high-level predictability to enhance road safety and driving. C-V2X is one more step toward that Holy Grail of level 5 autonomy.
The missing piece of the puzzle has been 5G wireless networks. 5G will deliver the base stations and smaller towers that can transmit signals around obstacles and provide the data and speed needed to achieve true autonomy.
3. Smart Factories
The manufacturing industry has been in a near-constant evolution for hundreds of years. Get ready for the biggest boom yet with 5G. With a projected market value of $358 billion by 2023 and a CAGR of 9.2%, the growth potential and reach is incredible.
- Connected devices will create clear and concise communications across future factory floors.
- The revolution that was begun by industrial robots and cobots will further transform how goods of all kinds are manufactured and delivered to consumers.
- Product design and distribution will be streamlined and accelerated to enable futuristic efficiency.
- eCommerce will improve exponentially as 5G connects the supply chain, merging the functions of retailers’ online and brick-and-mortar shops.
Smart robotic devices will be covered with sensors and connected tools to be configured in an almost limitless variety of environments, and 5G will provide the processing power that enables the machine learning and connectivity to drive seamless operations. The manufacturing industry is far outspending every other industry on IoT investments, and the impact on smart factories is sure to be nothing short of stunning.
In March 2019, a doctor in China used 5G to perform the world’s first remote brain surgery on a patient more than 1800 miles away. That’s just one example of how 5G and IoT are poised to transform how patients are diagnosed and treated, how health issues are predicted and prevented, and how medical facilities operate.
- 5G will power the AI and big data analytics that are already accelerating research, enabling the management of large-scale clinical trials from one integrated, intuitive, and intelligent platform.
- 5G is driving advancements in genome sequencing and genetic profiling, arming healthcare providers with molecular diagnostics and AI-powered applications to treat patients even before they are diagnosed.
- Innovations like the new Mobile Cardiac Outpatient Telemetry™ from ROBO Global index member Biotelemetry will use the power of 5G to save lives using remote monitoring, direct-to-physician alerts, and remote diagnostics.
The healthcare AI market is projected to deliver a CAGR of 47-50% by 2025, and its ability to achieve that growth and the innovations it will bring hinges on the speed of 5G. 5G will turn big data into healthcare’s biggest ally.
5. The Internet of Things (IoT)
It’s been a decade since Cisco first defined the Internet of Things, or IoT, as ‘the point in time when more things or objects are connected to the internet than people.’ At the time, even the experts couldn’t have predicted the extent of the transformation to come.
Thanks to 5G, that reality is finally here.
5G provides the infrastructure and the fuel for the data-hungry Internet of Things. By providing the ability to handle 1,000x more traffic than today’s networks, 5G will make it possible to ‘turn on’ myriad applications that are now ready to operate seamlessly on the same networks—with the bandwidth to support an almost limitless speed of communication. Using the IoT:
- Millions of IoT sensors in tomorrow’s smart cities will monitor air quality, traffic patterns, and more.
- Mobility will take on a whole new meaning as mobile connections of more than 300 miles per hour enable drones, unmanned aerial vehicles, and high-speed rail systems to operate at fantastic speeds.
- Motion sensors and predictive analytics will help governments and private industry predict and prevent theft and other criminal activity.
Even with a deep understanding of IoT, it still seems impossible to predict its potential application in our world of tomorrow. What we do know is that with IoT and the 5G networks that make it possible, a fully connected world of people and things will soon be a reality. Our lives will never be the same.
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