While much of the industry discussion about 5G focuses on the technology itself – its implementation and performance – less is said about the impact on consumers. While 5G capabilities will undoubtedly transform consumer communications, how will it affect lives in other ways?
There are so many inefficiencies in different industries which could be eliminated by using elements of the programmable world and the Internet of Things (IoT).”
Autonomous cars are a prime example where improved efficiencies could have a great impact, cutting the global toll of 1.3 million people killed in road accidents every year, while also reducing environmental emissions and massive amounts of congestion.
The development of pharmaceuticals would also be ripe for improvement thanks to IoT and the use of sensors. New approaches would bring automation to clinical trials and a reduction in lead times and costs for the introduction of new drugs to the market.
Water distribution could also benefit, through the prevention of vast amounts of leakage. Europe alone is said to lose about 20 percent of its water supply through poor quality piping and inadequate supply networks. Suri envisages water distribution systems using sensors generating big data to determine the location of leaks, allowing them to be fixed much more quickly.
Opportunities in healthcare
“I think healthcare is another big one,” Suri adds. “If you take healthcare today, and just look at one element of it: critical care, about 90 percent of patients in critical care in the ICUs (Intensive Care Units) are monitored. But, when they begin recovery and go home, no-one is being monitored.”
With post-operative after-care often taking place at a patient’s home, Suri thinks one of the ways to improve medical care would be through the use of sensors.
“Imagine if you could have these diagnostic devices we find in hospitals, miniaturized in the home environment, connected through the cloud with the hospital managing and monitoring ongoing critical care.”Yet there are challenges still to be met before these visions can become commercial realities.
“There is a standardization challenge,” says Suri, “and there is also the issue of privacy and security – these sensors and other devices will not be so intelligent as to be self-secure and so you will need to do it through the network.”
Getting vertical industries into the mix
Another issue is providing an attractive, integrated offer that will bring vertical industries on board: “The exciting developments are not so much in connectivity platforms for IoT – although of course we are working on these – but in all the services and applications. So you move from connectivity platforms to IoT enablement platforms and then you pick a couple of verticals.
“We’re picking verticals including, possibly, healthcare and automotive. I think the car industry for the operators could be a 100 billion plus opportunity globally, if my discussions with the car manufacturers are anything to go by.
But one of the key questions is what about outside the car, how do you connect the car to the rest of the ecosystem?”
Selling the idea of autonomous cars to consumers is also a challenge, one that can be met as process of gradual evolution according to Suri:”It is going to take time, starting with partially automated driving, reducing possible accidents with cloud connections, and this is where latency becomes important. Then, we will move to highway situations and so on. As we did in mobile – penetration was not 100 percent initially, but it is in many markets today, so I think it will just take time.”
The road to 5G
Asked about the link between IoT and 5G, Suri agrees that it is the same road leading to the same destination.’ “I think 5G is a much better enabler for IoT than 4G today. It is much more geared to the things that IoT will need.
“And a lot of the 5G network elements that we talk about for example, the core network, the move to the cloud and NFV, will already begin to happen before 5G comes along.
In fact, Nokia Networks is leading the way in implementing 5G-ready massive broadband in areas with millions of homes near to fiber but without the so called “last hop” connectivity via fiber to the home.
The solution bridges from the existing fiber network using high-throughput 5G-ready hotspots placed, for example, on nearby lamp posts. An approach like this ensures at least 1 Gbps throughput for every home.
Although as Rajeev continues, a question on everyone’s mind however, is how to make current and future networks more secure?
Says Suri: “I think network security will have to play a very strong role. I do not think we, as an industry, are focused on security as much as we should be. Mobile malware is really increasing at a rapid pace. It is not very expensive to find a loophole in the network and try to bring parts of the network down, or to target consumers and individuals and get hold of private information.
“A few years ago Nokia Networks decided to really focus on quality. We said we want to design our products for quality. We now need to do the same for security. We want to design all of our products for security, look at the entire chain and check for the audit, and check the secured products all along the chain.
“We are doing a lot in the area of security, and a great example is our security center in Berlin.
“We also have something called Mobile Guard that can predict traffic patterns and then predict the loopholes on the networks. This is doubly important, given the applications of IoT: just imagine what might happen if a virus were to cause a dropped signal in an autonomous car.
“For driverless cars and connected healthcare, the network needs to be robust and it needs to be secure. Data is in silos and we and the operators have figured out how to bring the data together in one place, using analytics.”
There will be some profound changes for the industry, as Rajeev Suri points out. On the other hand, it is becoming clear that there is a strong vision for the consumer benefits, including more time, better access to a lot more information, and more secure, more intelligent networks, which are part of the fabric of people’s lives.
With more than 50 billion connected things, sensors, and devices, the changes for consumers will be profound, as well as exciting.