The upcoming 5G wireless network technology is promised to be responsive, fast and power efficient. And companies, for the most part, are compelled to upgrade their networks to stay on par with the competition, even though they don’t yet see a compelling 5G enterprise use case to do so. If 4G underperformed on expectations when it debuted, how is 5G worth the investment?
Although faster downloads and the lack of latency promised by 5G may be enticing for the mobile phone user, it’s simply not enough to justify the enormous expense, which Bloomberg forecasts at $200 billion a year. Yet one industry may see this all differently: the internet of things.
By 2020, the B2B IoT market will surpass $300 billion, according to Bain & Company estimates. And overall IoT spending is expected to reach $1.2 trillion in 2022, based on data from IDC.
What IoT Needs To Continue Its Rapid Growth
An IoT device is a simple piece of technology, with a small computing unit, memory, sensing/display capability, communication and power. When deployed in large numbers, IoT can streamline operations, enhance the security and safety of people, enable more efficient use of power and even monitor our health.
5G And IoT In Industry
For decades, sensors have been used in factories to measure product temperature, count and monitor production, and ensure quality. It is only recently that sensors were connected via wires to enable greater flexibility of deployment, monitoring and proactive maintenance. 5G will enable wireless sensors throughout a factory or warehouse and smarter robots.
5G And IoT At Home
We also have already witnessed the deployment of first-generation IoT devices in our homes with the introduction of motion sensors, smart speakers and electronic weigh scales, thermostats and thermometers. In the next decade, I think we can expect to see the number of IoT devices grow to afford us greater safety, security and health at work and home.
With a wide range of connectivity standards such as Zigbee, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and 4G available to IoT product designers and engineers, 5G should be able to cater to all the product examples mentioned, from close range to long distances, at high rates of speed, all while providing incredible data rates.
Expect 5G To Create A Domino Effect
CNET reports that with 5G, “the combination of speed, responsiveness and reach could unlock the full capabilities of other hot trends in technology, offering a boost to self-driving cars, drones, virtual reality and the internet of things.”
What might this look like when 5G officially becomes an IoT enabler? We predict a cascading effect:
- Innovators will have the tools they need to solve old problems and create new conveniences.
- Manufacturers will expand and redevelop their factories and warehouses to support 5G networking, infrastructure and security to create new 5G products and remake and reimagine old ones.
- Consumers will need to recycle old devices and update homes and workplaces to support what will become a “necessary” connectedness.
This explosion of development, the need for installation and implementation, and the flood of recycling old, unconnected technology will require automation, planning, and the hiring and training of many smart people.
To make the whole 5G-IoT ecosystem work efficiently and securely for the greater social good, every city and business needs to have a solid strategy; otherwise, or the benefits of 5G could easily get away from us.
Establishing A 5G-IoT Ecosystem
As more technology tools like 5G enter the market, IoT will have more opportunities to expand on features, products and quality. According to Statista, “For 2020, the installed base of internet-of-things devices is forecast to grow to almost 31 billion worldwide.” Here's what will be necessary to create a 5G-IoT ecosystem:
- Automatic power supply: Batteries and wires may be a feasible solution to power IoT now, but as the sheer volume of IoT rises globally, it will be virtually impossible to keep up. A failing or depleted battery within an IoT sensor, M2M or factory automation could cost a company revenue and increase safety and liability issues. Wireless power -- without pads, over distance -- is critical.
- Innovators, integrators and implementers: It’s clearly expensive to implement 5G. To fully realize the benefits -- securely and safely -- companies need a strategy for short- and long-term growth along with the people to help make it happen.
- An electronics recycling program: It used to be that we’d keep our home appliances and work equipment for dozens of years. With 5G-enabled IoT and a continuous and automatic wireless power supply to IoT sensors, current “not smart” devices will soon become outdated and require recycling or upcycling. Companies and communities that best plan for this will turn a potential environmental hazard into an opportunity.
If you don’t believe in IoT growth, there’s no point in investing in 5G. But with a well-thought-out strategy to support the whole IoT ecosystem, 5G could become a much better investment.