Three Ways 5G Is More Than Just Fast Video Streaming

Vincent Roche

In 2019, we will finally see commercial deployment of the much-anticipated 5G (fifth-generation) wireless network.

5G brings us closer to the possibility and promise of ubiquitous, un-tethered connection between every device and every entity. The projected exponential increase in bandwidth, low latency, ultra-reliable connections, and highly configurable network solutions enabled by 5G will go beyond improving mobile broadband to dramatically remaking existing markets and opening entirely new ones. 5G, particularly when coupled with cloud computing and artificial intelligence (A.I.), will accelerate business and societal transformations that extend well beyond faster smartphones.

At Analog Devices, we develop high-performance semiconductor and software-based technologies that bridge the physical and digital worlds and capture and interpret data about everything from agriculture to jet engines. Adding connectivity to anything fundamentally changes its nature, and a new world of possibilities opens. With a 5G network, sensors could connect more effectively and better provide data and information to A.I. and cloud-based analytics engines, accelerating advancement across multiple sectors. The most exciting opportunities in this area are in the industrial automation, healthcare, and automotive markets.

Specifically, 5G networks will further enable the factory of the future and move us toward realizing the promise of “Industry 4.0,” or fully connected manufacturing. 5G will begin to replace the existing hard-wired/ethernet connections that today’s manufacturing sites need, bringing better reliability and reduced lag time in data transfers. Switching to a wireless network will not only free up factory floor space but also enable more highly sensed factory environments that hold promise for dramatically enhancing productivity and efficiency by minimizing (or eliminating) machine accidents, breakdowns, and other unexpected downtime.

For example, 5G’s reliability and speed will improve machine-to-machine communication and, increasingly, the human-to-machine interaction that is critical for safety in situations where people and robots coexist. 5G will allow human workers to more effectively communicate their location and actions with robots, drastically reducing the risk of accidents on the factory floor. A ubiquitous 5G network will also allow for condition-based monitoring of machines, enabling operations managers to presciently optimize equipment and other resources by more quickly and accurately identifying equipment that needs to be serviced or may not be operating efficiently.

“With real-time, highly reliable streaming, a surgeon in California could conceivably perform a procedure on a patient in Cambodia, bringing high quality and life-saving care to inaccessible and remote areas.”

In healthcare, 5G will help to democratize access to high-quality care, particularly where there are major gaps—such as in rural areas in the U.S. and in smaller cities in markets like China—by enabling remote or off-site procedures. Universal, reliable connectivity has the potential to revolutionize remote patient monitoring. A discrete, wearable, and trustworthy wireless biosensor that monitors vital signs such as blood pressure, oxygenation, and heart rate can continually transmit information to a cloud-based, A.I.-driven diagnostic engine, which receives, interprets, and acts on anomalous signals. Accurate remote sensing and monitoring will also let hospitals discharge patients quicker after illness or surgeries, helping them recuperate at home, where they can recover faster.

We will also get closer to the reality of remote robotic surgeries thanks to the super low latency 5G brings. With real-time, highly reliable streaming, a surgeon in California could conceivably perform a procedure on a patient in Cambodia, bringing high quality and life-saving care to inaccessible and remote areas.

On the transportation front, 5G will accelerate our progress toward fully autonomous vehicles as part of a multi-modality communications network. 5G promises to provide the real-time speed to effectively incorporate out-of-vehicle information about traffic patterns, pedestrians, cyclists, vehicles, road signs, and other objects on the road, enabling greater situational awareness, better decision making, and improved safety. In addition, 5G will enable vehicles to effectively speak directly with each other and to the cloud, sharing and processing the information in real-time as they make critical driving decisions.

The benefits of ubiquitous, 5G-connected, A.I.-enabled sensors will extend beyond enhanced healthcare and safer factories and roads. We see a future in which 5G enables remote monitoring that helps with environmental integrity, food scarcity, ensures clean water, and improves public safety through timely warnings about floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, mudslides, and more. Several of these solutions are already “in the field,” and 5G will take them to the next level.

As with any technology that promises to disrupt the status quo, however, 5G will take time, resources, and concerted effort to reach fruition. But once 5G is fully realized, we will be living in a world that holds the potential to dramatically improve life for all and, indeed, the world in which we live.

Vincent Roche
President and Chief Executive Officer of Analog Devices