Editor’s Note: CP Gurnani is CEO and managing director of Tech Mahindra. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own.
The buzz surrounding the fifth generation of wireless technology, 5G, and the promises it holds seems to be getting louder by the day. With speed that’s 100 times faster than current 4G networks, tech companies around the globe declare that 5G will transform the world. And they’re right.
Obviously, a full 5G adoption will take years, possibly decades, but it will fundamentally change how the world is connected and the way we manage business and live our daily lives. And it goes well beyond the telecommunications sector.
Here are some of the many ways 5G will change our lives for the better:
We are in the midst of a smart revolution with self-driving vehicles, smart speakers like Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Home Assistant and smart devices that monitor your home security, vacuum your house and toss treats to your pets and with 5G, everything will become even more instantaneous, connected and accessible.
In our era of instant gratification, 5G will make augmented reality and virtual reality experiences in real time so whether we are gaming, exploring or shopping, everything will feel more dynamic and instantaneous. The speed of 5G will eliminate lag in these AR and VR devices, which will eliminate the motion sickness that high latencies on VR and AR devices occasionally cause. 5G will create a realistic and immersive experience uninterrupted by delays and make users feel as if they have been truly transported elsewhere.
Internet of things
According to a recent Deloitte study, 5G will extend the reach of the internet drastically. Look for the rise of smart cities, smart communities, smart homes and the Internet of Things (IoT) — all the devices and gadgets around the world that are connected to the internet. Lightbulbs, thermostats, appliances, watches, security cameras, parking meters, streetlamps and even passports can all have sensors that collect, connect and share data and communicate with the network.
Sensors will become ubiquitous and will collecting data in real time and impacting every part of our lives. Investing in 5G infrastructure today will make our communities safer, more environmentally efficient and more connected.
Imagine a world where a surgeon can operate on a patient from another continent through robotics. With 5G’s real-time speeds, the precision needed for robotic surgery is possible. And, if you’re living in a rural area with limited access to high-quality health care, 5G can potentially allow for remote health care monitoring from the best doctors in the world, as well as the ability to use artificial intelligence (AI) to determine a treatment plan or a diagnosis for a patient. But even more mundane tasks such as downloading imaging files, real-time monitoring of patients and gathering data for preventative care will all be transformed through the new 5G-enabled technologies. There will be substantial benefits that 5G will bring to the health care industry and ultimately it will save lives and vastly improve the health of the global population.
5G will also unlock unseen levels of efficiency in the workplace. 5G will power data-driven insights and pave the way for AI applications that can automate many of the repetitive day-to-day duties that take up much of employees’ time, allowing them to be more productive and focus their energies on more intricate tasks that facilitate innovation. Though some worry that increased automation will lead to job losses, they underestimate the importance and value of human creativity. Used correctly, automation will augment human labor, and allow them to devote more care to higher-level tasks, since the tedious day-to-day tasks will be automated.
5G will enable the use of the Internet of Things in factories, an area which holds great potential. According to a McKinsey report, IoT could add $3.7 billion in value to factories by 2025. IoT devices will be able to collect data along every step of the manufacturing process, allowing inefficiencies that otherwise would go unseen to be diagnosed and addressed. Companies will have more insight into their processes and will be able to harness that to extract more value from their factories and their workers.
5G will also transform the farming industry with IoT devices monitoring livestock to ensure that they are nourished and healthy, while also detecting whether they are sick or pregnant. Sensors and drones can monitor crop production by collecting real-time data on numerous factors that impact crop growth, including soil quality, humidity and temperatures. While farmers are beginning to use these technologies now, 5G will greatly increase the speed and connectivity of these devices, ensuring more information is gathered and that the information is more accurate. As food demand continues to rise, 5G will be essential in helping farmers produce the largest possible crop yield and get the most out of their land. Farmers will have a plethora of data to grow their crops using less water, pesticides and fertilizer.
5G will literally impact every aspect of our lives. Investing in infrastructure now is critical so that we are ready to deploy 5G-enabled technologies. As we enter this new decade, I am more confident than ever that the 2020s will be defined by 5G and the other next-generation technologies that will create a smart revolution and improve the quality of life for a global population that has never been more interconnected.