IHS Markit views 5G as a booming market, on par with the steam engine, printing press and electricity, and predicts that its real gross domestic product will reach the size of India’s economy by 2035.
How will 5G write the next chapter of the future? 5G is the fifth-generation technology standard for broadband cellular networks, and is characterised as having higher speed, lower latency and greater capacity than 4G LTE networks. In the post COVID-19 era, as individuals, companies and countries acclimatise to what comes next, 5G is set to become one of the most disruptive trends, adding trillions of dollars to the global economy every year.
Significant improvements in network connection show how potentially disruptive 5G can impact our daily lives. The capabilities allow 5G to be used in various industries for higher efficiency, elevate user experiences and enhance reliability. Users can now remotely connect to systems at lightning speed, a new phenomenon of spectator sports can be explored using Augmented Reality (AR) and manufacturing can now react corresponding to its supply and demand.
Here are some ways 5G will change our lives, adding a new chapter to our future.
5G is also very promising in the healthcare sector, with instant access to patient information during emergencies using low latency and high-quality video streaming of remote surgeries using high bandwidth. In hospitals and healthcare facilities, immediately processing images obtained from MRI scans through cloud-based processing reduces costs and the need for computational-heavy hardware.
In underserved or rural communities with a lack of healthcare facilities and professionals, 5G can improve healthcare accessibility through telemedicine and AI-driven diagnostics. With the enhanced signal strengths of 5G, unreachable zones in rural areas can access medical assistance when needed.
Wearable devices, such as health tracking and fall detection will have 5G technology incorporated to bring greater connectivity for users. In the unfortunate event of a fall, medical response teams will be activated immediately to ensure the safety of its consumers. In addition, services such as telemedicine will be a norm where patients can schedule a consultation in the comfort of their homes.
5G also fuels the growth of data-driven medicine, which is medicine that acts on data to provide prescriptions. For instance, Swiss company, Sophia Genetics, produced data driven medicine using collective AI (Artificial Intelligence) called Sophia. Sophia is able to understand and aggregate the genetic code of DNA to predict genetic diseases. Furthermore, Sophia uses AI to integrate genome data with analysis, medical science and expert opinion, generating patient diagnosis that helps to personalise treatment options. Such data driven medicine opens up opportunities of the accuracy and rate of recognition of genetic diseases, as well as for more customised treatments.
In the education sector, 5G’s extremely low latency rate and high bandwidth allows it to be used to simulate immersive learning experiences for students. There is ongoing experimentation with exciting digital technologies like Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR) and Extended Reality (XR) in education.
In early 2021, BT Group, UK’s leading telecommunications and network provider, collaborated with North Lanarkshire council to deliver the first 5G enabled classroom to Scotland. This classroom projects digital worlds to students, allowing them to see the Northern Lights up close, the view from Mount Everest’s summit or even observing lions as if they are transported to a safari. The students are also given headsets, sensors and visors to be fully involved in the experience.
The usage of mixed reality in education provides students a more thrilling and immersive experience, which then translates to deeper inherent understanding of the subject matter being taught. Teachers can explain more complex concepts to students with visual stimulation from the mixed reality technologies, propelling education towards a more experientially rich environment.
5G has the potential to greatly impact the automotive sector, particularly in the form of driverless vehicles. Companies like Apple and Uber are currently researching ways to build safe and accurate driverless cars, with several trials already underway. However, for these cars to work, they require large computers processing great amounts of data in real time, which is only possible with the usage of 5G networks.
Additionally, 5G networks can speed the creation and employment of autonomous vehicles in the shipping and logistics industry. With greater connection between such vehicles, efficiency will significantly improve.
The implementation of 5G within this industry also equates to the creation of other forms of jobs. As an example, the port of Hamburg, the third busiest port in Europe, uses IoT technology via the use of sensors on their physical assets like trucks, ships and warehouses to monitor movement of traffic and data in real time. They also equip employees with augmented reality glasses for greater traffic flow and productivity. Hence, jobs involving the maintenance and management of these complex technological systems are created.
The automation sector will also get a lot smarter, moving from Industry 4.0 to Industry 5.0 (the connection of humans and machines). Many manufacturers are already leveraging sophisticated manufacturing technologies like 3D printing and IoT to carry out their operations. With the reliance on 5G, such processes will only increase in speed and productivity.
MTU Aero Engines, a German aircraft engine manufacturer, is exploring the use of 5G in production. They pilot-tested 5G’s applications through the manufacturing of blisks, which are high-tech components for jet engines. Being ground from solid pieces of metal, these blisks are extremely complex and thus need extreme precision to be created.
Before using 5G, each blisk required about three to four months of production time. With sensors and IoT technology involving 5G, they were able to develop an automated factory that cut the total lead time by 75%.
Therefore, 5G is the cornerstone of these smart factories, yielding greater capabilities of production operations. According to a report published by the Capgemini Research Institute, by 2023, smart factories will contribute between US$1.5 trillion to US$2.2 trillion to the global economy.
The integration of 5G networks will lead to greater development of AI and machine learning for businesses and enterprises. According to Harvard Business Review, “AI can support three important business needs: automating business processes, gaining insight through data analysis, and engaging with customers and employees”. This means fewer data processing or accounting tasks for white collar workers, and a greater ability to understand and interact with stakeholders.
The increase in speed and connectivity allows businesses to manage multiple processes simultaneously at high speeds. Processing information using computationally heavy algorithms with low computational time drives better decision-making within companies.
The popularity of remote work still persists even after the pandemic, employees from different countries are now able to be colocated in the metaverse. Virtual meetings will now take place in Virtual Reality (VR) where people can socially interact with one another without compromising on connection quality. Horizon Workrooms by Meta was launched in 2021 where people can enter a virtual meeting room using a VR headset to share meeting notes using a virtual whiteboard. With 5G, the quality of connection will support the use of VR in the metaverse.
Data centers also benefits from the capabilities of edge computing. Cloud processing optimizes costs and utilization of data centers where networks that require low latency will have processing power placed closer to its end users to reduce the time taken for signals to reach the cloud. Edge computing also delegates more resources where needed, processes that requires high delivery capacity and bandwidth will be able to meet real-time network demands.
The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to “the network of physical objects—“things”—that are embedded with sensors, software, and other technologies for the purpose of connecting and exchanging data with other devices and systems over the internet”. Ranging from simple household items to industrial tools, there are more than 7 billion connected IoT devices today. This number is expected to grow to 125 billion in 2030, according to new research from IHS Markit.
Increasing by an average of 12% each year, the sheer usage of IoT devices, coupled with the enormous growth of 5G, will spur greater connectivity. This will lead to an increase in worldwide data transmissions from 20 to 25% to an average of 50% every year, resulting in extremely large amounts of data being collected from these sensors to be analysed in real time. Hence, data analysts and scientists are able to obtain higher accuracy and predictability using machine learning and deep learning models with the additional data points collected.
Consequently, this emerging IoT movement that is impacting all markets and industries effects a changing relationship between humans and machines, and even with each other. China’s goal to rival US dominance in such areas is outlined in the “Made in China 2025” initiative, which pushes for greater development in artificial intelligence, semiconductors, robotics, aerospace and clean-energy cars.
Network slicing ensures a dedicated bandwidth for parties to transmit highly sensitive information without compromising on privacy and security. The benefits of having a sliced network translates to an early detection of anomaly and isolating malware within a single network slice before infecting the rest of the network.
In the cybersecurity domain, businesses will have an ease of mind processing confidential information using an encrypted network and edge computing. Businesses can now conduct their operations remotely and supply remediation capabilities in the event of a cyber attack.
5G will potentially revolutionise military defence with the invention of autonomous weapons that can independently make decisions to fire on targets like the Israeli Harpy drone. This drone uses artificial intelligence to autonomously fly to a particular area, hunt and destroy specific targets using a highly-explosive warhead nicknamed “Fire and Forget”.
On the battlefield, 5G and the Internet of Military Things (IoMT) work hand in hand to obtain real-time information during warfare. Obtaining data from sensors, cameras, radios, drones and vehicles allows the command centre to obtain valuable insights through artificial intelligence and virtual reality to remotely deploy assistance in emergency situations. 5G also offers enhanced cybersecurity on the battlefield to disallow communication interception through network slicing.
While the 5G scene is maturing and has garnered heavy interest around its usage in commercial sectors, not much has been done in the social impact sector. A step forward in this direction can be seen by Dementia Singapore, incorporating Virtual Reality (VR) to educate caregivers on the challenges faced by an elder living with dementia. The immersive experience simulates scenarios from the perspective of people with dementia to foster empathy and equip professionals with practical knowledge. The endless possibilities of innovation in similar use cases show that 5G can reach a larger demographic. The Singtel Future Makers 2022 programme aims to bridge this gap and utilise 5G to help the social sectors benefit from this uprising trend. In addition to $50,000 of grants, start-ups get to participate in workshops & mentoring sessions, network with potential investors and partner with social service agencies to test their solutions.
Opportunities are waiting to be seized as the 5G industry continues to evolve and gain traction due to heavy interest and funding in this industry, the Future Makers programme provides start-ups with a platform to expand their existing solutions and soar to greater heights.
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