Millennials have seen multiple breakthroughs in wireless technology. GSM networks brought us the cell phone age in the 90s. 3G networks gave us the smartphone age a decade later. 4G and LTE brought us our paradoxical world of complaining if things take more than a few seconds to load.
4G networks are still being built, 3G phones are still being sold, but there’s a new technology on the horizon. A new and improved technology, 5G (5th generation) mobile networks will bring many changes, including:
The technology is not here yet and the most optimistic estimations for a first network test is 2020. There are challenges involved, as you would expect with creating a global wireless infrastructure from scratch. This hasn’t quelled enthusiasm. Qualcomm, for example, has already developed a 5G modem. The 5G-capable cellular modems in the Qualcomm Snapdragon series are designed to increase mobility and flexibility and to make connecting to the cloud immediate for the user.
Executives, technologists and entrepreneurs are chomping at the bit to develop products and services with 5G in mind. Here’s how product design in just a few industries will change.
Going back to latency, it’s defined as the delay before a transfer of data begins following an instruction for its transfer. Now think about a world of driverless cars, the most important aspect of the system is communication. Communication between cars, between cars and traffic lights, construction zones and real time communication about wrecks or treacherous weather. The latency improvement offered by 5G is essential.
General Manager of Intel’s 5G business, Rob Topol, calls this dynamic, “V-to-X — vehicle to infrastructure, vehicle to pedestrian, or vehicle to vehicle.” Topal went on to say that the car experience will likely be more like a home or office. For instance, you might see SUV’s with compact workout equipment or a luxury vehicle with reclining seats and a projector for movies.
Wireless giants like Ericsson and Nokia gloat about 5G technology at the Mobile World Congress each year. One year, journalists were able to strap on an oculus rift headset and control a backhoe-like machine that was outside the conference venue. Or control a similar machine in Sweden with the same speed. This exercise was powered by 5G technology and shows the power of connecting devices and machines via the cloud. This has tremendous applications to industrial product design and the industry itself. For instance, construction projects could be done remotely with one team operating from an office to support the team on the ground.
At the latest MWC, Deutsche Telecom presented robotic arms with the high bandwidth and low latency of 5G. The arms nearly mirrored the presenters’ exact movements as he wore VR headset and specialized gloves. This innovation could take humans out of dangerous labor scenarios like logging and firefighting.
The healthcare industry might be completely revolutionized by 5G networks. The power to send complex data quickly provides the possibility of remote diagnosis and treatment. Italian company, Imaginalis, is already working on a 3D CAT scan and robot-assisted surgery technology. Damiano Fortuna, CEO of Imaginalis, said, “With 5G wireless connection, the entire workflow could become very easy and intuitive. That could make it possible to perform a pre-planned surgery by an expert surgeon in Cambridge or Boston, when the system (and patient) is located in another part of the world.”
This could mean more products developed for at-home scanning and testing. Robot-assisted surgery is already taking place, but 5G is said to make complex surgeries safer and minimize patient discomfort.
The next step is to increase the role of the machine to perform the complicated preparations, such as alignment and placement of a prosthesis, before the surgeon operates. This significantly shortens the time the patient is in surgery and helps to improve the accuracy of the operation. Surgery time will be reduced by innovations as simple as automated placement of prosthesis before surgery. In the distant future, you might scan your broken leg with your smartphone and have a robot surgeon arrive soon thereafter for surgery!
Autonomous roadways, smart, cloud-connected robots and healthcare innovations will change the world as we know it. But that’s just the beginning for 5G. There are other innovations in supply chain/logistics, sports, entertainment and more that will materialize as 5G becomes standardized and implemented.