Excerpted from CB Insights
Wireless communications have existed for over a century, but it wasn’t until the late 1970s and early 1980s that they became a commercially viable consumer service.
The first generation (1G) of wireless technology systems came with the introduction of cell phones, allowing for mobile voice calls, but nothing more.
The second generation (2G) provided improvements to voice calling and introduced text messaging via SMS. Much later, media messaging via MMS helped the cellular industry gain widespread adoption in the early 2000s.
In 1998, 3G allowed for media-rich applications like mobile internet browsing and video calling.
The most recent generation of wireless technology, known to consumers as 4G (now 4G LTE), have speeds that allow for mobile online gaming, live stream HD-TV, group video conferencing, connected home solutions, and even emerging experiences like AR/VR.
That said, downloading or buffering is typically required at 4G speeds. For most consumers, this is a small price to but for industries like transportation or healthcare, latency (the delay before data transfer) can have a direct impact on system outcomes.
5G will enable near-instant communication between autonomous vehicles, for example, communication that may prevent fatal accidents.
5G will have the biggest impact on these mission-critical systems while also providing the necessary infrastructure for tomorrow’s connected technologies.
What is 5G?
5G is the next (and fifth) generation of wireless technology systems. It will provide speeds faster than any previous generation, comparable to those delivered via fiber-optic cables.
Early testing of this technology shows real-world speeds of 700 – 3025 Mbps (3.025 Gbps). Movies that took minutes to download with 4G will take seconds with 5G.
There are many other applications for the technology besides mobile technology.
The Internet of Things (IoT), for example, will benefit tremendously from the speed and bandwidth provided by 5G. Gartner estimates over 20.4 bn IoT units will be installed by 2020, while IoT-related spending will reach nearly $3trn.
Autonomous vehicles, robotic surgery, and critical infrastructure monitoring are just a few of the potential applications of 5G-enabled IoT.
Industries being disrupted by 5G
In an attempt to reduce costs and improve overall health, western medicine is shifting towards preventative care.
5G offers enormous opportunity for expansion of both preventative and monitoring practices via wearable devices.
5G’s faster speeds and greater network reliability will allow for the development of more complex devices, including those implanted directly into a human body rather than worn externally.
Microscopic cameras equipped with 5G will be able to provide real-time streaming in and out of patients’ bodies, setting the groundwork for more remote diagnoses and other telehealth practices.
The manufacturing industry has already started adopting artificial intelligence and IoT technologies to increase efficiency, improve data collection, and build better predictive analytics.
With 5G, manufacturers gain a faster, more reliable means of collecting and transmitting that data, as well as a broader range of sensors and devices they can integrate into their factories and workflows.
One major potential improvement with 5G will be augmented reality for manufacturing.
Tesla, Google, and others have been racing for years to build the first viable autonomous vehicle capable of navigating all environments without the input of a human driver.
Other companies, including Qualcomm, Ericsson, Huawei, and Nokia, are looking to 5G and edge computing as a potential solution to the problems faced by autonomous vehicles.
Over the last several years, retailers have invested millions in smart technologies to help customers shop more efficiently and check out faster, while collecting more data on the customer experience.
From in-store analytics to visual recognition-driven shelf monitoring, all depend on or benefit from the ability to transmit large amounts of data and access high-throughput connections, like with 5G technology.
Current “smart shelves” incorporating RFID technology, for example, can tell a business owner the ratio of item pick-ups to sales and display dynamic prices. With 5G technology, shelves equipped with sensors could determine low stock on a product, ping a distribution center to restock its inventory, and dynamically monitor the progress of that shipment.
Today, companies like Sephora use virtual try-on technology to help in-store customers see what a particular makeup would look like on them before they buy, but the product is constricted by data streaming limits. 5G technology also allows trying on clothes in augmented reality with such accuracy that it would be hard to tell apart from reality.
An augmented reality application on your 5G empowered smartphone, for example, triggers when you enter a store and guides you directly to the shelf where you can find your items of choice.
Media giants such as Fox and Warner Brothers have already begun to explore the use of 5G technology.
5G channels will be able to offer live streaming of unparalleled quality. Amazon and Dish Network are already in negotiations to jointly build and support a 5G network.
Download speeds will also decrease dramatically over 5G, making movie, game, and TV downloads possible in seconds rather than minutes. This could propel a shift away from streaming and towards mobile downloads, as downloaded media can be accessed and enjoyed with or without connectivity.
5G could have an even more transformative effect on augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). VR and AR applications have a higher field of view, resolution, and frame rate than conventional media, and as such require a significantly higher level of bandwidth and lower level of latency in order to transmit a consistent experience to the viewer.
Your typical 4G connection has about 60ms of latency, far too slow for the VR experience, which can become disorienting and jarring even at 15ms. 5G, on the other hand, promises potential latency of between 1-4 milliseconds.