We stand on the doorstep of the 5G world. When the Wright brothers invented the airplane, it fundamentally altered how we experience travelling. It wasn’t just about speed. Yet, it was great getting from one city to another in less time. But flight also gave us thrill of defying gravity and soaring to new heights. Flight became a new user experience for every traveller – the space-age feel of the airport, the visceral rumble in the chest as the turbine engines fire up, the press of G-force as the plane accelerates down the runway, the flutter in the stomach as the plane leaves the ground, the exhilaration of bursting through the clouds cruising at 30,000 feet. Just as the airplane fundamentally changed the travelling experience and set off a chain reaction of innovations, so too does 5G promise to alter the nature of our digital experience.
Some hear 5G and just think it means faster connection speeds. However, it goes beyond that. As it matures, 5G is expected to alter the very DNA of our user experience in dramatic, exciting ways – from leisure to healthcare to retail to manufacturing to finance and beyond. We will look at 5G as a new experience – and as a possible enabler of radically new ways to do business.
5G is more than just speed. It is a conglomeration of technologies that will elevate and enrich the user experience from end to end.
5G as a technology
Here below is an overview of what 5G as a technology will ultimately be able to deliver.
Let us say you live in the suburbs of your city and drive to work which is 30 km away from your office. I personally live 20 km away from my office in Hyderabad and it takes me more than an hour to reach office. Ten years ago, the commute wasn’t too bad, but now it is congested and slow. How can my commute experience be improved?
- Capacity is one consideration – We can add more lanes from one end of the commute to the other so that more traffic can be accommodated.
- Speed is another consideration. We can raise the speed limit and get faster cars on the routes.
- Proximity is the third consideration. I can move closer to the office – so essentially, I live on the edge of the office’s property. Because speed is important, if I only live say 3 km away, I can ride a motorcycle and get there in less time than say in my Honda City even if zoomed down at a 50 to 60 km per hour. The downside of course is the cost of real estate. I may not be able to afford as many square feet of living space near the office as opposed to the suburbs, but my commute experience will be much better.
- Traffic management will be my final consideration for making my end-to-end commuting experience better. High-occupancy-vehicle lanes could be created on the main wider roads and programmable lanes on the smaller streets that lead to the main wider roads. High-occupancy-lanes create priority lanes with less traffic for certain types of vehicles and programmable lanes route traffic based on current congestion information. You improve how the road treats you – not how you treat the road.
Now let’s translate this analogy:
- Capacity is bandwidth. 5G will ultimately not only support a better experience per device, but also more attached devices, such as AR goggles, machines, sensors, and drones. 5G and its architecture will theoretically be like adding many more lanes to a four-lane highway.
- Speed is how fast the data can travel. As 5G evolves, a 5G network will be giving each car an engine with incredible top speeds and then raising the speed limit to allow for ultra-rapid transit time.
- Proximity is the power of the edge. The 5G network (core and RAN) is designed from the get-go to be flexible and better suited for edge deployment. It brings compute resources and services closer to your work and home. Services that currently reside in a central cloud outside the mobile network can be pushed to the edge so they’re on the doorstep of the devices. It will improve overall experience, end-to-end latency – not just network latency.
- Traffic management is, as the name implies, how you manage data traffic across hyper-busy networks so it travels with reliability. Network slicing lets network operators open dedicated virtual networks over a common network infrastructure to provide functionality specific to the service or customer. It is like opening high-occupancy-vehicle lanes on the wireless network. Today, we have a better class-of-service (COS) app that can re-route traffic around jams or accidents on your route, but tomorrow virtual networks can be created on the mobile network that could essentially help the mobile network be MPLS-like.
Let us look at some of the industries where 5G could make a big impact.
Leaders in the healthcare industry agree that patient experience is paramount; improving the healthcare experience is a key trend that will determine whether providers succeed or fail.
Current Tech trends. Wearable health devices, health monitoring and diagnostic apps, telemedicine, AI for process automation in hospitals, cybersecurity to protect electronic patient records.
Predicted trends. Value-based care (rising costs of care, electronic medical records, personalized care and precision medicine, patient reforms, and patient engagements); pressure to maintain profitability (staff productivity, facility efficiency, process streamlining, cost reduction – all while being innovative); growing patient demands (patients consume healthcare differently), virtualization of care, emerging social applications, and new competitors); infrastructure readiness (expanding ecosystem to meet customers where they are); and interoperability, cyber security and information access.
Future potential 5G use cases. 5G will begin to solve business problems that drive revenue realization, helping healthcare providers be more profitable, efficient, smarter, secure, and importantly more effective in caring for the patient.
Getting an annual check-up or calling the doctor’s office when you are sick will become less necessary. Wearables and home sensors will provide near-real-time monitoring of your health and can alert you and your healthcare provider about potential ailments or abnormalities.
5G will be the intersection of network, cloud, and services. The network operators will be distributing parts of the core so that capabilities will be at the edge and thus closer to the patient and their devices. The devices will have much greater capacity, speed, and proximity. Telehealth will no longer be just about enabling connectivity in traditional brick-and-mortar healthcare facilities. Now we will have connected care almost everywhere. Remote patient monitoring and mobile health applications that citizens can access on their smartphones or tablets, while at home or work, will be part of a new and seamless way of delivering cost-effective, direct-to-consumer healthcare.
In terms of preventative care, healthcare wearables will calculate daily recommendations and prompt based on individual’s medical records, real-time vitals, and projected needs.
Healthcare providers will be building an entire eco-system that creates highly responsive, effective patient-centric experiences
We’re already trending toward selling consumers experiences – not just selling things. Retail will continue evolving toward rich, experience-based shopping.
Current tech trends. Retailers are using data and solutions from different types of endpoints to trigger customer-requested targeting marketing; retailers are also able to collect tremendous amounts of data from customers and their behaviors, enabling AI – personalisation (recommending products, sending coupons for what you have purchased, redesigning home pages instantaneously based on social media profiles); smart digital price tags.
Predicted trends. 1) Creating the optimal fusion of the virtual and physical worlds to create intensely personalized shopping experiences; 2) In-store 3-D printers to create custom products; 3) VR and AR to virtually try on clothing, virtual remodel, and redecorate your home, or holographically teleport to potential destinations to help you decide where to book your next vacation.
Future 5G use cases. With customer consent, when customers walk past your storefront, your store will be able to sense them, and based on the compute power happening right at the edge of each device and location, you can virtually clothe the customer in your latest fashions that match the customer’s current and predicted preferences – and render the customer in their wardrobe on high-definition screens in the store window instantaneously.
Sensors will also be able to detect how well customers like what they see based on advanced facial recognition algorithms that can interpret subtle expressions and eye movements and show different wardrobe items that trigger more positive responses. All virtually instantaneously. Retailers can save these personalized digital ads and create follow-up marketing campaigns just for that customer. A home improvement store may have a remodel kiosk that pulls up your floorplan and lets you walk through each room in your house in VR, changing the color of each room, switching out furniture or appliances or even adding a new wing on the house to see how it looks
Just as those in the healthcare industry recognize that they need to create better patient experiences through technology, so too does the financial services industry realize that they must create better customer experiences. As consumers and businesses turn more and more to mobile and online banking, those financial services that can make digital interaction exceptional will find themselves leading the pack of the new fintech landscape.
Current tech trends. Online and mobile banking and investment firms are causing the rapid shrinking of physical banks and locations; evolving cyber-attacks from multiple entry points and vectors are plaguing the industry. AI Bots help quickly resolve customer service issues for online interactions in finance; insurers are using IOT and AI to gather and process volumes of data that help them create better pricing models that save them and their customers money.
Predicted trends. 1) Digital-only banking will continue to reduce the size and need of the physical locations; 2) Real-time risk assessments and alerts will inform investing and budgeting decisions; 3) A Uber-like sharing economy will upend banking services by matching providers and users of capital.
Future 5G use cases. Customers will be able to create financial and insurance service experiences that are highly customized, recommending products and services based on predictive models. High-resolution video will let customers summon your in-person or AI representatives for anywhere consultations.
An AI cyber-immune system will send intelligent defender cells (like white blood cells) from one edge of an institution to the other, actively patrolling for hacker probes, patching security weak points, and evolving to match new threats. This will be augmented by new identification methods using AI and facial recognition.
Insurance companies will be able to dispatch drones for insurance investigations or even use holographic teleportation for adjusters to tour damaged property and inspect vehicles and provide benefits more rapidly.
Manufacturers are using current IOT and cloud advancements to streamline processes, reduce overheads, and boost revenue.
Current tech trends. IOT devices to provide real-time feedback, optimize shipping and storage conditions, and send alerts for repairs and preventive maintenance, create smart factories with integrated IT to collect and process data for both sides of the supply chain, moving data for storing, managing, and processing needs to the cloud.
Predicted trends. 1) IOT neural network where IOT smart sensors fueled by edge-computing power and AI create a connected manufacturing brain that optimizes, reacts, and calibrates from one end of the manufacturing process to the other – informed by the intelligence at each node and endpoint; 2) Robots that mimic human capabilities are used for dangerous, high-risk jobs currently filled by humans; 3) AP/VR schematics.
Future 5G use cases.
5G’s high-capacity, wireless-flexibility, and low-latency performance makes it a natural choice to support the gathering of operational intelligence. As networks grow and become smarter, they will produce more information than their predecessors. Manufacturers that can capture and crunch these numbers can produce actionable intelligence that increases productivity. When the network gives advanced warning that a piece of specialized equipment needs repair, augmented reality using low-latency 5G-enabled headsets will make technicians more efficient. Level-I technicians can travel to a site and have engineers at HQ guide them through the repair process remotely via 5G networks, using context-sensitive 3D animations to walk them through the necessary steps. Finally, 5G will enable manufacturers to drive more functionality closer to the edge of the network. Because this network technology’s reliability is so high and latency so low, equipment can communicate wirelessly with back-end systems for time-critical operations in ways that were not possible before.
Some of these scenarios have elements that project into a future that seems wholly in the realm of science fiction. But that’s the point of experiences and advancements that 5G will accelerate. Critical to how fast organizations can hit the ground running with 5G will be the strength, breadth, and depth of their current network, cloud services, IOT, mobility, and cybersecurity.