OPINION: 5G is the fifth generation of wireless technology. In practice, it will be known as one of the fastest, most robust technologies the world has ever seen. That means not only quicker downloads, but also richer immersive experiences that have a massive impact on how we live, work, learn and play.
Although it’s still going to be a few years before those promised speeds and game changing benefits of 5G become available in New Zealand, that doesn’t mean businesses should sit back and wait.
Having worked closely with successful start-ups, accelerators, incubators and research labs in the United States, I can tell you that now is the time to ideate, brainstorm and experiment.
So, what might these next generation use-cases actually look like? A lot of it is guesswork. But if we take a global view, we can get a sense of the kind of innovation that is already having a big impact.
Of course, there will be use cases that simply weren’t possible before, that we couldn’t even dream of seeing; but once they arrive, we won’t know how we ever lived without them.
Take the jump from 3G to 4G for example. This fundamentally changed the way we used our phones with the creation of Facetime and augmented reality apps like Snapchat for example. It made Uber possible and revolutionised the way we get around.
All of these innovations came about through using technology to solve contemporary problems, and that’s why 5G is so exciting.
There are many predictions out there, but below are the five trends I’ve noticed in the US which are likely to have an impact in New Zealand:
Gaming on the go
Cloud gaming is going to bring a big suite of applications over the next few years. I’ve already seen a lot of use cases being developed here.
5G will enable gaming anytime, anywhere and on any screen. It will eliminate latency and with the increased bandwidth, it will unlock new experiences on mobile devices that were previously unimaginable.
Gaming is a broad category so as well as more cloud-based services, 5G could also bring more multiplayer games and subscription titles.
And it’s not only the consumer who will benefit. From a business aspect, I believe assimilation training, gamified versions of real-life situations that are created to educate people in a virtual world, will become more common.
This could be used in education, or for job training and demonstrations provided via virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR). This could mean your location is no longer a barrier. Budding police officers could train remotely instead of at the Police College in Wellington for example, or a job interview in Auckland could be conducted remotely from another city or town with VR.
A new way of learning, working and travelling
Particularly since the coronavirus pandemic, which has actually seemed to fast-forward 5G adoption in the US, I’ve seen more businesses starting to think about how they can use the latest technology to bridge the gap between online and in-person education and training.
Augmented reality and virtual reality enable learners or workers to experience the material as if they were in the same room, regardless of their location. While these technologies are supported on 4G and wi-fi networks, they haven’t reached their full potential and I believe there are numerous possibilities here which are yet to be explored.
5Gs low latency speeds and increased bandwidth will allow VR and AR technology to become incredibly diverse tools that transform the way we access education and improve our remote work options.
Plus, for people living in areas lacking fibre connections, 5G offers the promise of fibre-like speeds without any infrastructure like cables needed to create fast internet in the home which will make these options even more accessible.
5G also has the potential to transform the tourism industry, providing the ability to use AR and VR technologies to ‘travel’ from the comfort of home.
Virtual tourism could have a definite impact in New Zealand, particularly as travel is currently not an option. While it’s no substitute for the real thing, it could become an integral part of marketing campaigns used by the tourism industry, encouraging travellers to visit New Zealand when borders do open.
Healthcare from home
Telemedicine, which has been growing as a service over the last several years in the US but has taken off since the coronavirus pandemic, will get a major boost from 5G.
The need to provide essential medical care at this time of limited in-person visits meant an increased demand on Telehealth applications in the US.
This prompted some cities and hospitals to work with Verizon to enable a faster rollout of 5G in order to meet demand and help healthcare providers increase the speed and efficiency of telehealth visits.
Integration of 5G networks in existing infrastructure provides real time data transfer of images, documents, and real time videos for virtual medical consultations.
Remote and robotic surgery options will also grow in popularity. This requires minimal lag time between a surgeon’s motion and a network’s reaction time, and a 5G network would ensure that minimal interruptions occur in the future.
All of this could completely revolutionise the New Zealand health system, improving quality of care. In rural New Zealand for example, where there aren’t large hospitals and specialist physicians, 5G will bring a new era of applications that allow medical professionals to control precision equipment remotely to perform some surgeries.
Robotics, drones and automation
Autonomous vehicles, drones and robots will be hitting their stride with 5G.
Autonomous vehicles are one of the most anticipated 5G applications. It’s the low latency and rapid responsiveness of 5G that will make this technology so revolutionary. Over time, we will see driverless cars operating in large scale smart city applications.
Today, drones are limited to line of sight and distance of the controller. 5G will remove these limitations through high resolution video and low latency.
These advances will result in use cases in search and rescue, border security, surveillance, drone delivery services and more.
In addition, robots have the potential to get smaller, lighter, more intelligent and easier to move with 5G.
In the US we’ve already started seeing the development of miniature humanoid robots that could be remotely controlled in real time to help with disaster response or search and rescue in dangerous areas. Imagine the potential this has in New Zealand.
The Era beyond the smartphone
The smartphone industry has changed in a short space of time, and it will continue to do so with 5G.
This technology will show up first on the smartphone, with higher resolution and increased memory capacity so that people can download full-length movies and video games and enjoy them in high-definition on their phone no matter where they are.
However, we are moving beyond the era of the smartphone and we’re starting to see these new form factors with wearables like smart watches and smart glasses which will enable X-Ray information about a place, almost like you have superpowers.
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This will have a lot of benefits to New Zealanders. For example, those who are house hunting will be able to look at a property with smart glasses and have all of the information including the building report, council valuation and rates and zoning restrictions presented in front of their eyes.
In addition, live broadcasting via wearables could become ubiquitous, in the same way as people now Snapchat their experiences or share them on Instagram.
Same but different
The more impactful 5G applications will most likely be similar to the wireless 4G applications we already know but implemented in a different way. So, it could be that the innovation isn’t necessarily new but 5G will provide that extra oomph that it becomes relevant, interesting and game changing.
It’s the answer to that unmet need that ends up being the gamechanger.
It will take a few years for 5G to become available across New Zealand but when it does, it will open up a world of opportunities for people bold enough to take risks. 5G will unleash a new wave of entrepreneurs and innovators. Now is the time to get ahead of the curve, learn, pivot and be a part of history.
Serhad Doken heads emerging technology innovation at US telecommunications company Verizon. He is also a panellist for Spark’s 5G Starter Fund.
Published at Fri, 07 Aug 2020 17:00:10 +0000