5G A revolution is dawning
If a vehicle is connected to other vehicles on the road, to traffic lights, to roadwork and accident notifications, even to pedestrians, the potential of 5G is enormous. Long distance trucks could drive in convoy at times of the day when traffic is light. Fleets of cars could travel very close to each other at identical speed during rush hour, with traffic lights changing depending on the exact number of vehicles on the road. Road safety should improve, traffic flows should become more efficient, transportation costs should decrease as should pollution. The potential is enormous and 5G is the key enabler. Self-driving vehicles demand very low latency to effectively communicate. Even milliseconds of latency could result in fatal collisions.
The roll-out of 5G will significantly improve the quality of people’s health and healthcare. 5G technology will enable real-time monitoring of an individual’s health and will allow humans and machines to interact in real time. There is the potential to perform complex medical procedures by a surgeon on the other wide of the world.
A fully interconnected world has the ability to democratise all forms of education. Students living in poorer cities would have the opportunity to ‘attend’ universities on the other side of the world. Higher learning, and particularly universities, remain locked into real estate. How institutions have interacted with students has been based on location. But in a 5G world, location becomes much less relevant. Like e-commerce has disrupted retailing, a 5G network would disrupt education. The opportunity to attend university will increase significantly. Students from all corners of the world will be able to benefit from quality education. Of course, it remains to be seen whether universities will be open to new models of operation, or if new players will enter the landscape and pose a challenge to the towering incumbents.
Smart cities, enabled by a 5G network, are all about interconnectivity of multiple devices to improve the flow of people and traffic, to minimise pollution and maximise productivity and hopefully increase quality of life. The data flowing from a building will be a critical piece of the 5G data network – how many people are inside, what air conditioning is needed and what power output is demanded. Buildings will need to change if they are to generate the data necessary to allow a 5G network to operate. New buildings are incorporating the potential for the 5G network, but anything built more than five years ago will need retrofitting, and that could be a slow process.
Virtual and augmented reality
Virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR) apps run best with little to no latency. They need a 5G world. Investment bank Goldman Sachs forecasts that the global VR and AR market will be worth US$80 billion by 20258. E-commerce could ultimately become the largest exponent of VR and AR applications.
VR allows innovative e-commerce platforms to completely personalise the shopping experience, targeting very personal tastes and values of the customer, which would be hard to replicate in the physical world unless you had a personal buyer. AR will change the home shopping experience. Items will instantly appear in situ, via a mobile device. Clothing, shoes and other accessories can be projected onto various parts of a person, making it easier to make purchasing decisions remotely.
Video streaming accounts for a very large share of internet traffic. 5G will be beneficial for gamers and streamers. In a 5G world, a high-definition video will be downloaded in seconds and HD television will be streamed without interruptions. Lower latency enables the live streaming of events, as well as augmented and virtual reality.
If there are 50 billion smart connected devices by 2020, as forecasted by Cisco, all collecting, analysing and sharing data, there will an explosion in the need for data storage. In fact, over 175 zettabytes (one zettabyte is around one trillion gigabytes) of data is expected by 2025, meaning data centres will play a vital role in the management of information.
“From autonomous cars to intelligent personal assistants, data is the lifeblood of a rapidly-growing digital existence, opening up opportunities previously unimagined by business,” says Dave Reinsel9, Senior Vice President of International Data Corporation. “Storage in particular will continue to grow in importance, as it provides the foundation from which so many of these emerging technologies will be served.”
The data journey for organisations is just beginning. Collecting, storing, analysing and utilising data will drive the growth of data storage over the next decade.
Logistics and supply chain
E-commerce has had enormous growth in recent years, and by 2024, thanks in part to the roll out of the 5G network, over 8 billion people will be online. That equates to 4.2 billion new digital consumers versus a total population of around 7.6 billion people10.
The 5G network will much better enable virtual shopping. E-commerce is already surging in major economies, led by the United Kingdom, China and the United States. The more people shop online, the better the logistics process in fulfilling orders needs to be. A 5G platform will allow companies to vastly improve their delivery logistics and supply chain management.
Supply chains will need to be fully transparent and trackable. Predictive analytics will provide a competitive advantage to some retailers. Consumer expectations about shipping times will encourage companies to use advanced robotics and automation. All facets will be better enabled by a 5G network.
Industrial real estate
Already, successful retailers understand that customers want convenience, immediacy and product variety. The roll-out of 5G will accelerate the ability of retailers to meet customers’ demands. Real estate will be a factor in meeting that demand because it allows retailers to execute their strategy.
Retailers emphasise time-to-market and proximity to consumers. In fact, proximity to the customer and efficiency via modern facilities are the most important drivers of industrial real estate. Technology changes and the introduction of 5G networks will sharply improve supply chain efficiencies. This will provide savings, and profit margin, to retailers, brands, consumers and industrial real estate owners.
Words of warning
No industrial revolution occurs without some social upheaval. There will be a myriad of challenges that society, led by governments, need to face. They range from how 5G technology affects capitalism, through to personal identification and security, to cost.
In previous revolutions, human input into change was much greater than is anticipated in the 5G expansion. The roll-out of assembly lines in car factories didn’t only produce more vehicles, it also produced more jobs. The 5G revolution is based on how technology can be deployed effectively. Will that mean that corporate profits benefit more from 5G than wages?
The roll-out of the 5G network is hugely expensive. If governments don’t play a role in managing the transition from 4G to 5G, companies will demand high prices to get a return on their investments. Any transition could become much less egalitarian.
In a 5G world where everyone is connected, security becomes much more of an issue. The network itself will provide some solutions. For example, blockchain technology – which can underpin financial services and smart legal contracts - will be much better enabled in a 5G network.
There is also an unknown, and partly intangible, personal cost of technology. How do people relate to each other? What do they do with their idle time? The 5G network will change the way we operate as human beings. And finally: are people ready for another revolution?
The final say
The next industrial revolution is coming soon. The roll-out of 5G technology will enable a low-latency interconnectedness between humans and objects that will change how we live, how we work, how we relate and our impact on the earth.
Some cities and countries are already spending tens of billions of dollars to roll out the network. As that occurs there will be enormous opportunities from creating smart cities and advancing health and education outcomes through to reinventing real estate, entertainment and transportation.
The complete impact of a functioning 5G network is impossible to forecast, a bit like trying to predict in 2007 how smart phones would change the world. All that is known is that in a decade from now, society will have changed.
Nirvana, however, only happens when all societies can access and share in a 5G world. That’s when the revolution truly transforms the fabric of working, socialising and living.
1 Some information taken from Vox; https://www.vox.com/2017/6/26/15821652/ iphone-apple-10-year-anniversary-launch-mobile-stats-smart-phone-steve-jobs
3 Cisco, The Internet of Things 2011
9 Quoted in https://inform.tmforum.org/data-analytics-and-ai/2017/04/idc-predicts-ten-fold-increase-data-2025/
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