Major changes are coming to the patchwork of Internet of Things (IoT) devices that have begun to fill up homes, offices and industrial sites. Joe Fizor, Director of Solutions Engineering, TBI Inc., shares how the deployment of the fifth-generation mobile network – also known as 5G – will be the force that gets these devices to communicate and work together seamlessly and will pave the way to truly smart homes and smart cities.
We live in a world of smart devices, but it doesn’t always seem that way. For example, when you cook your breakfast, it’s easy to forget that there is a microchip inside your refrigerator, another inside your coffeemaker, and others built into other appliances all around you. You may have a high-tech kitchen, but it probably doesn’t feel much like The Jetsons, where machines work together to automate breakfast and the rest of the morning routine for the still-sleepy humans who merely have to show up.
This is because the smart devices that are increasingly staking out their place in homes and offices are still not communicating seamlessly with each other. Many of these devices use different wireless protocols, have differing bandwidth and power requirements, and can’t work together productively. However, with 5G here, that may soon be changing.
The 5G Rollout
The country’s major telecom carriers are in the process of turning off 3G cellular networks and bringing 5G networks online. This isn’t an overnight transition, but it is moving forward. By the end of the year, more than half of the country could be covered by a 5G network offered by one or more major carriers.
These networks will play a crucial role in expanding IoT ecosystems because of their ability to house volumes of data. With lower latency, higher bandwidth and a network capacity of 10 terabits per second per square kilometer, 5G is ideally suited to power a growing world of intelligent devices.
With its proliferation of devices—from smart cameras to cars to connected refrigerators—IoT gadgets need a faster network with higher capacity to serve a range of connectivity needs. Third-generation networks aren’t up for the task, but 5G networks are. With 1,000 times the range of fourth-generation cell networks, 5G also offers lower latency to enable faster, smoother and more reliable connections.
Devices of just about every kind have been growing smarter. But without a high-capacity, lightning-fast network for them to run on, they have not yet been able to reach their full potential. The network these devices need is now becoming a reality.
Devices Growing Smarter
For years, manufacturers have been implanting chips in household appliances, cars, security cameras and a range of other devices. And now, many manufacturers are building gadgets for faster 5G connectivity.
According to Verified Market Research, the Global 5G IoT market size was valued at about $1.4 billion in 2020 and is expected to see a compound annual growth rate of 72.1% until it reaches a total market size of $111.2 billion by 2028. If the analysts are correct, the growth will be meteoric.
Smart, connected devices rely on high-speed processing, which cloud computing enables. But where this processing takes place is something that is changing. The 5G rollout will enable more edge computing – data processing at the source, on distributed systems, not located on the actual device. This will be a game-changer in IoT, as it will open up entirely new possibilities. When the latest gadgets and the new networks converge, The Jetsons will feel a lot more like daily life and a lot less like science fiction.
Networks and Devices, Together
When faster, more reliable cell networks come together with optimized devices for the future, homes, workplaces, and even cities will be more intelligent. The machines will communicate not just with the cloud but also with one another.
Why don’t your refrigerator and coffeemaker compare notes and then order from Amazon when they notice you are running low on creamer? Because even though both appliances have the built-in intelligence to do these things, they have not had the network that allows them to work together like this.
Another example is autonomous driving. Today some cars can drive autonomously, but every bit of the compute power that makes it possible is located in the actual vehicle, which means there are certain limitations. But what if streetlights and other objects along the road could lend some of the needed computing power? Edge computing could change the design of cars while making autonomous driving safer.
Countless other examples will become a reality in healthcare settings, office buildings, city blocks, industrial worksites, and other locations. There is virtually no limit to what we might accomplish when the machines can communicate with one another thanks to robust bandwidth.
Rolling Out the Red Carpet for 5G
Of course, moving to a new paradigm will mean facing some new challenges. Security should be a concern for anyone who welcomes a move to distributed data processing and intelligent devices. Companies whose digital infrastructure was designed for today’s data-processing will have to radically rethink how they collect, safeguard, and share information. Growth seldom happens without a few growing pains.
However, the 5G rollout is something to celebrate, and not just because it will provide better WiFi on flights, faster movie downloads or better cell coverage in remote areas. When new networks and devices come together, it will pave the way to a fascinating, exciting future.