The fifth generation of connectivity is here in a fanfare of excitement and concern. What is likely to be the real impact of 5G on our lives now that it’s here?
Watching live sports and downloading films on your tablet are about to get a whole lot easier and quicker. This is the headline that 5G providers are touting, along with some impressive demonstrations of augmented reality. But this is the tip of the iceberg, as the 5G revolution is set to drive an extra $12 trillion of sales in the next decade.
From self-driving cars to robotic surgery, all these possibilities can now be delivered thanks to 5G. There will be new products, services and entire industries emerging from the possibilities because it represents a significant leap in speed, connectivity and capacity.
For every day consumers, the most obvious impact will be faster mobile download speeds and better signal. At work, you will see more tasks automated. Let’s dig deeper into some of the issues.
The Internet of Things
IoT is the capacity to link machines and devices to the internet. Your mobile phone, your Alexa or Google Dot and maybe even your doorbell are examples of IoT devices. As 5G arrives so will our capacity to add more devices to the same connection. It is estimated that there will be 125 billion devices linked by 2030.
So, our life at home will become more convenient. We will be able to control everything in our home from our sofa with our smartphone. In industry, whether it is health, education or manufacturing, we will begin to see the potential of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. Remotes and sensors will collect, analyse and apply the consequences of data in real time. When you visit the supermarket, you could begin to see display cases changing to adverts that most appeal to your shopping habits – just one small example of the impact of even bigger data.
The automotive industry is likely to see one of the most significant impacts too – just think of the possibilities of self-driving cars.
However, logistics is a massive beneficiary from the 5G revolution. It is possible that there could be a fleet of ghost trucks and ships moving stock around the world, all linked and tracked from a central signal. While this might be devastating news for truck drivers, it allows supplies to travel uninterrupted by the needs of humans.
While the improvement in logistics sounds like a mixed blessing, the truth is that it will improve efficiency. Where money is saved there is the chance for lower prices for consumers.
Healthcare is likely to see the biggest revolution from the potentials of greater connectivity and capacity. There are so many applications for machine learning and artificial intelligence in our care, from a robot that disinfects the hospital rooms to a robotic arm that can complete your surgery. There are even pill-sized robots that can travel through your system and collect diagnostics.
Into the future, the changes could be even more dramatic. You could easily call a self-driving mini-clinic that offers automated testing and video links to doctors. You can imagine in the time of COVID-19, where social distancing is a major concern, that such diagnostic capacity would be a welcome addition to the tools of your doctors.
On a more pragmatic level, increased connectivity could really help those elderly in remote areas who rely on telemedicine. It will also streamline and improve research into diseases and potential cures, as Big Data has more practical than commercial applications too.
In the workplace
Your office is likely to get a lot smarter in the next few years – whether this is in a centralised building or whether we will be connected from our homes – 5G will make it easier.
Smart machines could, in the future, offer problem-solving and critical thinking support in decision making. Automation could make workers in factories redundant. Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality could revolutionise sales, as consumers are introduced to the possibilities of products from the sales room.
Security and war
And then there are the concerns that 5G will impact public safety and national security. Interconnectedness on such a significant level makes us all a lot more vulnerable to cyber attack.
It also makes weapons systems smarter – which is horrifying or reassuring depending on which end of the bomb you sit.
How big is this change?
There seems to be a tech revolution every year. It is easy to get complacent and consider 5G as just a stepping stone to 6G. When 4G was introduced nobody made a fuss and many are viewing this new connectivity in the same way. Yet, experts are viewing this on the same level as the printing press, the steam engine and electricity. It is thought to be yet another industrial revolution last seen in the 1800s – such will be the profound effect on innovation.
The thought of this might be mind boggling – but at a basic level it means you will get a downloaded movie or game in a few seconds rather than hours. This is all we need to know for now. Just be prepared for the possibilities to come and focus on how your humanity can keep you relevant in the workplace. It’s time to think: what can’t machines do? And get good at this.
The fifth generation of connectivity is here in a fanfare of excitement and concern. What is likely to be the real impact of 5G on our lives now it’s here.