5G will be way more than faster streaming and cooler phone

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5G internet

You’re hearing a lot about 5G these days. It’s almost like it’s a thing already. Well, it is a thing, but it’s only an operational thing if you live in Chicago or Minneapolis, where Verizon launched the very first 5G networks just last month.

Laura Haight

So don’t run out and buy a 5G phone tomorrow because by the time you can get the benefit of it, it will be outdated. But 5G is coming, and with it a fourth industrial revolution — and it’s going to be way more than a faster internet and a cooler phone.

Over the next few months, in this column and articles, we’re going to take a look at 5G and how it may impact different aspects of business segments from manufacturing to health care, communications, civic life, social life, social media, and security.

What’s the big deal? After all internet speeds have been getting faster and faster for years.

I could dazzle you with comparisons of gigabytes versus petabytes and the like, but, with the help of Karen Schulz of Verizon National Network Communications, let’s take a peak at future functionality forged by 5G instead.

Extremely low latency (lag time) can be the technology needed to make 3D imagery of human tissue during a surgery possible, vastly increasing a surgeon’s visibility of the surgical field. In fact, look for new eras of medical technology advancement, particularly in the realm of emergency medicine.

5G internet
5G could speed up the path to autonomous vehicles and smart road technology.

Massive amounts of data in the range of 10 TB (terabytes) per kilometer can be moved through 5G networks. For comparison consider that every data point – every photo, video, text, television program, streaming web service – associated with the entire week of Super Bowl 2017 only amounted to 8 TB. Those amounts of data, coupled with low latency and handoffs as fast as 500 kph will fuel the long-dreamed about smart road technology and an expected wide adaptation of autonomous vehicles.

Small cells in dense configurations will make 5G scalable – serving a million devices per kilometer. Those configurations – a small cell every 1000 ft – will require network devices everywhere. According to Schulz, Verizon’s been placing devices on utility poles, street lights and even on the sides of buildings. “If you knew what to look for you would see them everywhere,” she says.

And that will spur the development of even more IoT and IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) applications and devices. In the sphere of law enforcement and security, video surveillance will be omnipresent, with biometric recognition occurring in real time. Availability of data and AI applications to support law enforcement will be far more accessible, and cost-effective.

5G will be the infrastructure that can bring form to ideas that have been the stuff of imagined futures of science fiction. But sometimes that science fiction has a sinister side. And it’s that side that is already raising red flags on the privacy front. Even as Congress warms to the idea of a national privacy act, similar to the EU’s vast GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation). Interest is fueled by constant news about social media platforms in general, and Facebook in particular sacrificing privacy for user convenience and company profits.

5G internet

Some upstate businesses with operations or sales in Europe are already dealing with the heavy lift that the GDPR imposes. A similar US act – if we could get our act together – would potentially impact every business in the country. At a time, when data acquisition and strategic solutions may finally be within reach of the average business, we may be facing a bigger issue of how to protect American’s privacy when every move of every day can potentially be tracked.

Can we have both a 5G-fueled world of smart/safe cities, smart electric grids, autonomous vehicles, advanced medical care, and connected social as well as business lives, and still have some semblance of privacy?

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What will 5G make possible in your business? I want to sit down with business, political and education leaders to “blue sky” with me for future articles. Connect with me at [email protected].

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