“We are looking at a world without barriers.”

Re-imagining Possibilities: How 5G Will Change Our Lives

Reading Time: 8:08 minutes minutes

By Melvin Wong, Lead, PT&I Solution Engineering, SAP SEA

5G is more than speed

The realization of next generation cellular technology, 5G, has begun. And 5G discussions are becoming mainstream. Much of these discussions focus on the network: Better coverage and faster communication.

5G is said to be 100 times faster than our cellular connection and 10 times faster than our speediest home broadband service. So, sure, speed is a key component. But that’s not merely it.

Network redesign: A chance for telcos to reposition strategically

When we talk about 5G, there are typically 2 components: Network and virtualization.

The network aspect of it entails infrastructure enhancement and is largely in the territory of telcos. In this domain, 5G is not just a hardware upgrade despite sounding like it. Rather, it’s a network redesign which is redefining opportunities for telcos. With software-defined networks, players can slice their networks in different formats, change latency, and adjust throughput in ways that 4G was not able to.

In that regard, it offers telcos new monetization strategies. And the opportunity to be specialized in specific verticals. For example, with Telco A and B already in the space of broadband and social media, Telco C decides it wants to connect the world in the transport space. Hence, its network is sliced in the manner allowing all transport sensors and their accompanying data to be connected to Telco C. This allows Telco C to service the transportation industry with dedicated offerings. In a highly competitive industry, such 5G capabilities allow telcos to reinvent themselves for a competitive advantage – as opposed to engaging in a price war on similar services.

I shan’t go much into a telco discussion as this warrants a new post by itself. So, let me touch on the second important aspect of 5G that will offer non-telcos much to celebrate for: Virtualization.

Virtualization: A host of benefits for everyone

Virtualization is about services being offered virtually. Such as connecting and working virtually in a collaborative environment. Today, we have that in the form of virtual gaming where multiple players come together in a common environment. Think Oculus, a virtual gaming headset. Or virtual escape rooms. But these settings connect a limited number of players.

Current challenges: Network throughput

One of the greatest challenges restricting a fully-fledged virtual environment that can connect thousands of people in a reality-based working environment is: The collection of field data and running it through data processing engines to gain valuable insights.

We are constrained by bandwidth (i.e. network throughput). And we are impeded by network connectivity. Virtual reality networks consume huge amounts of data. And 4G just isn’t enough to support that.

5G enables virtual reality networks in a massive way

But 5G is poised to resolve this in a big way. To explain this, first let me clarify the concept of edge computing.

Today, due to limited bandwidth, only a part of data collected from a sensor is processed at the actual site of collection. The rest of it is sent to a central location that can be far away for processing. For instance, a plantation may monitor the health of its agricultural produce via sensors with aerial/near spectrometric imagery. It would need to send the collected data into a centralized cloud-based service for analysis – where the outcomes would tell plantation owners if they are supplying fertilizers in the right areas. With data being sent back and forth, this typically takes a lot of time to process.

With 5G taking edge computing to a whole new level, the analysis could run locally on an edge server near the sensor, or even on the sensor itself.

Fully virtualized environments: Redefining collaboration

In the scenario of a fully virtualized and collaborative work environment, this means that data generated by every employee can be processed on or near the local device. And insights harnessed can then be sent instantly to the rest of the organization. Or even partners, suppliers and contingent workforces.

Re-imagining Possibilities: How 5G Will Change Our Lives 1

Figure 1: Mind-blowing Technology — You can speak any language in your own voice with real-time translation.

It’s almost like all of your stakeholders working together in a physical office. Only much better. Because you get the information you need – without having to email your co-workers about it. Because you reap the full benefits of in-person collaboration – without having to commute. This boosts productivity. Which also reduces the environmental impact of transport.

In fact, mixed reality technologies is already overcoming the challenge of distance and language in a game-changing way. Using artificial intelligence technologies, an individual can project his/her presence – as a lifelike hologram – to another geographical location. At the same time, AI technologies translate what the individual is saying into a local language while retaining the individual’s tone and inflection.

Re-imagining Possibilities: How 5G Will Change Our Lives 2

Figure 2: Collaborate with 3D Holograms

Not too long ago, cloud and mobile redefined how employees and organizations collaborated. Anytime, anywhere became a familiar concept. Soon, 5G will transform that.

A world without barriers

We are looking at a world without barriers.

Live detection and management of virus outbreaks

Take today’s COVID-19 outbreak. With virtualized networks, the public will have greater confidence in home care treatments – knowing that they are carrying out the procedures correctly. This supports containment which is a major step towards the global management of this virus.

At the same time, hospital, transport, school, business and governmental networks interacting with one another will provide clarity on new cases uncovered to help the public avoid outbreak clusters. Plus, allow public authorities to visualize the most appropriate follow-up actions.

Drones, remotely managed, can help deliver medicine, foods, and essentials to support social distancing efforts. Tracking of Stay-Home Notices or Quarantine Orders will be made simple with sensors controlling software and network triangulation.

Data-driven transparency will also mitigate fears of broken supply chains as the authorities coordinate resources from areas with availability. Visual representations of critical supplies will foster trust between governments and its constituents – a key aspect to maintaining normalcy in what might amount to panic situations.

Factories and workplaces can be run remotely with virtualized technologies. That will keep production up for critical supplies, while supporting Work-From-Home efforts as key operational functions are automated and operated with remote control and monitoring. Business continuity will also assuage the impact to businesses as well as connected economies around the world.

Telehealth and critical remote surgery

Telemedicine, supported by robots, can be made possible at scale. By enabling critical communication (such as vital patient information and symptoms) between medical professionals and patients remotely, health systems reduce the need for hospital supplies in critical shortage such as masks. At the same time, it allows potentially contagious patients to stay confined.

Even outside a pandemic situation, telehealth saves time and commuting costs – resources which can be put to saving more lives.

Critical remote surgery can also be enabled in a 5G world. Imagine specialist surgeons only available in certain parts of the world. With critical remote surgery, patients from thousands of miles away can benefit from their expertise. This has been trialed at King’s College London by Ericsson. Using specialized haptic feedback gloves and virtual reality equipment, a doctor can operate on a patient via a robotic counterpart. The gloves provide touch feedback from sensors on the robot arms. And the VR equipment places the surgeon in the same sensory environment as the patient.

These technologies, combined, eradicates the hindrance of distance and the burden of travel cost. Patients get access to specialists, no matter where they are located.

Live traffic control and advice

Now, scale this up and imagine multiple virtualized environments – such as traffic networks, healthcare networks, emergency management networks, weather networks – interacting with one another.

From the perspective of emergency ambulance driver, or a logistics truck driver, it may look something like this: Live advice on optimal routes based on live videos streamed from traffic cameras, in-car devices, as well as the changing weather, planned events entailing crowds such as concerts or marathons, and more. The ambulance driver no longer has to waste valuable time in a traffic jam.

The beauty about live streaming videos is they contribute to lead indicators which predict the future. As opposed to non visual historical data – which is based on the past.

Live public security response to threats

In the case with public security personnel, the benefits of virtualized networks over 5G may look more like real-time information to help them do their jobs better. Take a situation with suspected terrorist threats. Responders get insights from relevant government agencies. The centralized command sees what its responders are seeing. And the terrain its responders are navigating.

At the same time, pertinent data from public channels, social media and sensors across the city feed responders with critical information. A city CCTV camera spots a suspicious individual. A traffic camera corroborates this as a threat based on facial recognition algorithms. The traffic networks predict the direction the suspect is traveling in. With these networks interplaying to reveal the optimal response, the closest, best equipped responders are scrambled to secure the threat.

Plenty of use cases

The use cases are numerous.

Some of the more commonly mentioned examples include smart factories with intelligent assets and processes that dynamically adapt to changing priorities, plus deliver customization at scale. Or self-driving cars that harnesses 5G to talk to other vehicles, city sensors (from streetlamps to flood detection sensors), and the centralized traffic command. The resulting intelligence enables a fully autonomous a traffic system and driverless vehicles.

The promise of 5G is tremendous

5G – realized – will touch almost every aspect of our lives. And impact the way we live, work, and play. For businesses across industries, the way we interact with and serve our customers will also change.

Today, the important thing is to recognize the importance this next generation cellular technology will have on the way we run our organizations. And start exploring how best to capture the opportunities it is offering – now.

Let me know if you have ideas and want to discuss. It’s never too early.

Stay Informed

Become a more intelligent enterprise. Stay up to date with industry trends, in-depth research, upcoming events and more, delivered to your inbox each month for free.

Stay Informed

Become a more intelligent enterprise. Stay up to date with industry trends, in-depth research, upcoming events and more, delivered to your inbox each month for free.