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Why phones may be the least interesting thing about 5G
Ian Dickson

Ian Dickson

We're on the tipping point of a revolution. A change to the very fabric of how we live. 5G is coming online and it will transform the world as we know it.

Virtually every industry will be shaped by 5G. Even the objects around us will become connected and integrated more seamlessly into our lives.

By 2035, it's estimated that 5G will fuel a $12trillion boom in an 'internet of things' economy, and by the end of this year it's predicted 231 million 5G smartphones will be shipped. That will double again in 2021. In three years' time, 5G is expected to handle one billion connections globally.

Underpinning this growth will be massive infrastructure investment and millions of new base stations that will be located every few hundred meters.

The benefits of 5G are immense. It decreases the latency (the time it takes for data to travel from one point to another) and increases upload and download speeds. It also works better when you're moving: if you've ever been frustrated by your phone's bandwidth on a moving train or car, 5G will allow you to experience a more stable connection.

But the application of 5G goes far beyond mobile phones. The fact that your phone of the near future will have 5G is one of the least interesting aspects of it. From autonomous cars to AR, manufacturing to industry, 5G will power a new wave of technology that will redefine our lives in the coming years.

 

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Autonomous cars and road safety

One of the most interesting uses of 5G is how it can be incorporated into improving road safety. The speed of 5G means cars can be continually connected to the internet and each other, as well as to traffic lights and road infrastructure. Cars will know exactly where they are. What's around them. When there's a stop sign. And if there's a person crossing the road. This will accelerate the transition to full autonomy on our roads.

And this tech is coming sooner than you might think. HERE and Verizon have teamed up to enable drivers with a 5G phone to use it as a sensor for better collision avoidance and detection.

By using data from the cloud, and with the low latency of 5G, it gives drivers an accurate portrayal of what lies ahead and will warn them of impending danger. It can see things that car's sensors can't. And the best bit is it allows any vehicle, whatever its age, to have this level of safety awareness.

 

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Augmented reality

5G is expected to be the solution to finally bring augmented reality into the mainstream. And by 2025, the AR market is expected to grow from $5.9billion to $198.2billion as a result. Until now, the issue has been high latency – the delay between you performing an action and the digital reaction.

For augmented reality to work to its full potential, this needs to be instantaneous. And that requires a lot of bandwidth. With 5G's ultra-fast speeds and low latency, it removes the lag between the virtual and the real worlds, creating immensely powerful and responsive experiences. AR apps, smart glasses and headsets will finally become more commonplace and drive innovation in nearly every industry, from virtual healthcare to richer shopping experiences.

 

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Manufacturing

5G will spawn a manufacturing revolution, or industry 4.0 as it's being dubbed. And it will have a profound effect on production, logistics and the supply chain. As Erik Josefsson, Ericsson's head of advanced industries, said: “We'll effectively spray our factories with sensors and that will require an excellent wireless connection. You can't do it using a cable. So 5G allows us much wider reach and much deeper penetration using radio.

“The other thing is real-time control. “What's going on at my factory? Has something been moved?" “Is someone on the floor?" “Did someone use a fire extinguisher?" It offers you real-time information about everything."

In its report, Ericsson predicts that 5G will have a $113billion impact on manufacturing by 2026, with the biggest changes being seen in autonomous robotics, smart surveillance, real-time automation and remote operations. For businesses, this will lead to higher flexibility, lower costs and shorter lead times.

 

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Industrial applications

Every industry will be affected by 5G, even traditional ones. If we take farming, for example, sensors can be used to monitor livestock and agriculture in real time. From connected cows with 5G collars, to drones monitoring fields of crops, advances in the automation of farming could help food producers scale up to meet the needs of growing populations.

5G will also revolutionize the world of energy, enabling remote monitoring of assets and improving security. It will make it easier for construction workers to make faster decisions and access complex information remotely. It will power a new generation of working from home, and provide cities with the bandwidth to truly incorporate smart technology into their infrastructure. Who knows, 5G might even create new industries we never imagined.

“5G will be a game changer for many use cases in every industry," said Edzard Overbeek, CEO of HERE. “When this technology is location intelligence enabled we'll see connected services that are designed to make our world safer, more efficient and environmentally sustainable."

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