In a not so far future, almost every object you can think of will be connected to the internet. In November 2015, the technology consulting firm Gartner forecasted that more than 6 billion connecting devices will be of daily use in 2016, a 30% increase from last year. The number will grow exponentially by 2020, with almost 21 billion objects estimated to be online.

In terms of value, Gartner estimates that the Internet of Things will support total services spending of $235 billion in 2016, up 22% when compared with 2015.

IoT devices II

In 2016, Gartner predicts that 5.5 million new devices will be connected every day. This explosive growth of the Internet of Things requires super-fast connectivity to unleash all of its potential. This is why it’s time to kick-start projects for the deployment and development of the fifth generation (5G) of telecommunications systems, a crucial building block for the digital society of the future.

Indeed, the payoff of 5G investments will go far beyond the ICT sector, with huge impacts on sectors such as the manufacturing, healthcare, energy, transport, media and entertainment. In a recent paper, the 5G Public-Private Partnership (5GPPP), explained how these sectors could make sense of these transformations and digitalise their business.

Manufacturing

The manufacturing system is heading towards being a data-driven ecosystem. 5G and an ever-faster connectivity will improve the ability of manufacturers to collect and analyse huge amounts of data, thus providing them with a better time-critical process control. Furthermore, future communication solutions will facilitate the connectivity between different globally distributed production sites and new actors in the value chain.

Transport

Amongst all, the mobility sector is on the verge of major transformations. The 5G will improve the quality of the current driver assistance systems and enable real-time interactions between thousands of cars in the same area, thus potentially reducing car accidents. Moreover, thanks to the lightening-speed of data transmission, connected car-drivers will have a “see through” security application that enables the driver to see the road well ahead of the car in front of them. This will bring unquantifiable benefits in terms of safety.

Healthcare

The healthcare sector accounts for nine to ten per cent of national GDP in European countries, and it is expected to rise in the next few years. One of the main challenges that the healthcare sector has to face is resource management. In this respect, 5G will be instrumental in mobilising efficiency reserves such as assisted self-management capabilities. Furthermore, 5G is expected to have huge potential in enhancing the quality of surgery by facilitating the development, and consequent use, of robotic technology.

Energy

Due to its fragmented development, the energy industry has evolved in isolated silos (primary fuels for power generation, transport grids, heating systems). As a legacy of this discontinuous process, demand and supply needs have often been difficult to meet. 5G will be essential to help energy companies in balancing supply and demand, particularly in a future when an increasing proportion of energy will be generated by somewhat irregular sources, such as solar and wind-generated power.

Media and entertainment

Media consumption has changed considerably in recent years and will continue to do so in coming years. The sector will use 5G technologies for ultra high fidelity media, on-site live event experiences, immersive and integrated media, cooperative media production and collaborative gaming. 5G will also foster the media and entertainment innovation ecosystem by opening simple application programming interfaces (APIs) to adapt the network’s capabilities to content application needs in real time.

When will all this happen?

Historically, we have needed an average of ten years to move from one communication infrastructure to one that is better more, advanced and faster. The European Commission is working to deploy 5G technology by 2020. However, at the 2016 Mobile World Congress, some tech companies committed to make 5G wireless available by 2017. In order to do so, though, it will be essential to clear some significant hurdles around 5G. At the moment, the standards have not yet been set.

We are heading towards an ever-connected world where people, places and objects will be able to fully interact, and with the intentions of some technology giants, it seems these changes may happen sooner that we may have initially expected. Whatever the future 5G will look like, Bristol Is Open is ready to take up the challenge. Its Wireless Mile, stretching across Bristol’s famous Harbour Side, represents an ideal test- bed for those fast approaching technologies.

 

Simone Grassi, Bristol Is Open

 

Photo credit: Andrew Gustar on Flickr