5 things becoming a reality with 5G

10th July 2019

5 things becoming a reality with 5G

Advances in 5G are enabling upcoming applications, but how soon will this new reality come?

Telemedicine

Few 5G‐enabled innovations have the potential to save as many lives as telemedicine does. The concept of telemedicine is simple; utilizing telecommunication to provide health care across often long distances. While all people will benefit from this service, the most vulnerable in society are set to gain the most.

Elderly people, those living in rural areas and disabled people all face additional barriers when accessing healthcare, with the advent of widely available telemedicine significantly improving their lives.

Yet, any implementation of telemedicine will require a 5G network that can ensure a stable data connection can be achieved. For example, in‐demand brain surgeons may be able to perform complicated surgeries remotely, eliminating the need for patients to travel long distances, but the system must be extremely responsive so the doctor can quickly react to complications, illustrating the importance of low latency.

When consumers have 5G available in their home, they can use their devices to request telemedicine appointments without leaving the house. Earlier this year, the Chinese government announced they had successfully tested a remote surgery procedure using 5G, with a reported delay of only 0.1 second between the actions of the doctor and the response from the surgery equipment.

It may still be a relatively nascent area of medicine but the promise of telemedicine will clearly interest both government health services and private medical organizations. According to a report from Market Research Future, the telemedicine market is forecast to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 16.5 per cent until 2023.

Virtual Reality & Augmented Reality (VR/AR)

The potential of VR/AR to fundamentally change the consumer entertainment experience and offer exciting new business applications is significant. From playing truly immersive video games to allowing fully visual teleconferencing and enabling real‐time walkthroughs of construction projects; the possibilities are virtually endless.

The rollout of 5G is set to play a pivotal role in shaping the future of (VR/AR), due to the high‐bandwidth and low latency. Previous generations of communication technologies simply haven’t had the needed capacity or speed to provide a consistent and quality experience for consumers. But now 5G is providing the answer, and setting the scene for mainstream adoption.

But it may be a few more years until the more widespread use of VR/AR in most environments. “VR has reached a trough of despair after a burst of hype in 2015–2016, with household headset ownership in the US and Europe stalling at 10 per cent to 20 per cent in 2018 as a result of expensive form factors and weak content libraries,” says Tim Hatt, head of research at GSMA Intelligence.

Although there have been innovative devices released in this field, including Microsoft’s HoloLens and Facebook’s Oculus Rift, both their price point and relative lack of applications have hampered their appeal.

As soon as 5G can allow for VR/AR to be stable for real‐time applications, then major companies will become increasingly interested in investing heavily to create potentially world changing applications.

Drones

Drones may have initially been introduced to the public as a novelty that allows hobbyists to film stunning scenery and cityscapes. But the advent of 5G can turn drones into extraordinary versatile tools for businesses and consumers alike. A demonstration last year by academics at King’s College London found that, through 5G technology, a fleet of drones can be controlled from the other side of the world.

Ultra‐low latency 5G enables drones to be used by emergencies services to gain a clear view of disasters and allow for time‐sensitive resources to be shared in the most effective way. Packages may be delivered in as little as 30 minutes through self‐piloting intelligent delivery drones, with Amazon on track to begin a roll out of these devices in a matter of months.

The economic effect is also forecast to be significant. According to PwC, there are expected to be 76,000 drones in use across the UK by 2030, which will have a £42 billion net impact on the economy.

There are still privacy and safety concerns around the unregulated use of drones, with the widespread disruption at Heathrow airport earlier this year illustrating the threat to public safety from just a single drone. The practical business benefits from 5G‐supported drones will ensure that a responsible regulatory framework is implemented that supports the use of drones for an array of applications.

Ultra‐low latency 5G enables drones to be used by emergencies services to gain a clear view of disasters

Autonomous vehicles

Self‐driving cars have been much discussed in recent years, but so far technology has not been able to match the futuristic vision of autonomies vehicles. 4G was a major improvement over previous generations, however 5G is expected to offer speeds of up to 100 times faster than 4G, which is vital for autonomous cars of tomorrow that will require a radically faster network than ever before.

Safe and effective autonomous cars must have the ability to make real‐time decisions, that may be a matter of live or death, taking in an array of data and processing it in an instant. 5G only forms one component of the countless technologies required to make self‐driving cars a reality, but without 5G, it will be virtually impossible to make autonomous vehicles a commonplace device.

A major barrier to adoption of self‐driving cars is the perceived safety and ethical issues their usage raises. As autonomous cars are increasingly being tested on public roads, a number of high‐profile accidents have resurfaced questions around if they will ever be safe.

A major barrier to adoption of self‐driving cars is the perceived safety and ethical issues their usage raises.

The factors that self‐driving cars take into consideration when attempting to avoid accidents has also been debated. For example, should the car always place the survival of its passengers at the top of its thought processes, even if this means swerving into a group of pedestrians?

There are no easy answers to these questions but as AI technology improves and 5G is able to handle this substantially increased data load, the benefits can be expected to outweigh the negatives.

Video streaming

As the amount of on‐demand video content has exploded in recent years, with the introduction of services like Netflix and Amazon Prime, consumers have become accustomed to ultra‐HD content in their homes. But even as smartphones and tablet screen sizes have become larger and able to show high‐definition video content, data speeds and prices have limited the quality available to most consumers.

But this is slowly changing. “Most of the early rationale for consumers to upgrade from LTE to 5G smartphones is faster speeds: from our consumer survey, over half of people (54 per cent), equate 5G with a speed upgrade,” says Mr Hatt.

According to forecasts by GSMA Intelligence, there will be 1.4 billion 5G connections by 2025, or around 16 per cent of the global mobile base. These users will be able to view high‐quality videos even in crowded spaces, like airports and stadiums, thanks to the ability of 5G to prioritize data traffic to reduce latency.

In practice, this means that as 5G technologies develop, 4K live streaming will become possible for viewers and businesses can create extremely high‐quality video content without the concern that the consumers network will not being able to handle the data load.

As consumers expectations of video streaming quality continue to rapidly grow, 5G has the power to enable businesses to meet these new demands and offer an improved service.

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