For the Internet of Things to reach its full potential, we're going to need 5G. Without it, the promise of efficiency and automation unlocked by the deluge of data will stall.
The “Internet of Things” (IoT) – the technological trend of connecting nearly everything to the Internet – promises to revolutionize our lives. Experts tell us that we can expect dramatic impacts in settings as broad as home automation, wearable technology, industrial automation and smart cities.
A June report published by McKinsey predicts that IoT may have a total economic impact of $4-$11 trillion on the global economy by 2025. Dean Garfield, President and CEO of The Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), agrees that IoT will have “an even greater transformative impact in our lives, our economy, and our society [than the Internet]” as stated in his August testimony to national lawmakers about government efforts to keep pace with IoT development. According to these industry consultants, tech leaders, and others, in order to reach the full potential of the IoT, network technologies that provide the infrastructure for IoT to work need to continue to advance.
Better Networks Needed: How 5G Enables IoT
One area of focus is improving Internet speeds and access. Garfield pointed out in his testimony that “only with ubiquitous, high-speed, affordable broadband will the public and private sectors be able to derive the maximum potential that IoT will offer.” 5G, the latest generation wireless system currently slated for widespread adoption in the early 2020s will be an essential component of these higher speeds.
A research brief from USTelecom emphasizes the massive investment in network infrastructure driving the “network of the future.” According to the brief, “broadband providers invested $78 billion in 2014 and more than $1.4 trillion dollars since 1996…to build and expand the broadband network capacity needed to accommodate traffic growth.”
The brief also notes that “nearly all wireless traffic utilizes wireline networks, whether via cellular backhaul or Wi-Fi extensions of fixed broadband access networks,” underlining the need for infrastructure investment at all stages of the network.
This holistic approach to upgrading network infrastructure is echoed elsewhere. “Different technologies are visible on devices, such as LTE or Wi-Fi. With 5G, customers…will always have the best network connection, wherever they may be, without having to think about it,” explains Bruno Jacobfeuer, CTO of Deutsche Telekom, in an interview in the August 2015 edition of OSP Magazine. Describing a 5G future, Jacobfeuer states, “there is no need for customers to search for a hotspot, because their device is already connected to it.”
In an interview with IEEE Spectrum, Zhigou Ding, a researcher at Lancaster University, describes how 5G is essential for IoT: “With 5G we will increase the data rate, reduce the end-to-end latency, and improve coverage. These properties are particularly important for many applications related to IoT.” With regard to IoT applications where small latency and/or high bandwidth is necessary, Ding concedes frankly, “unfortunately the current 4G cannot support them.”
The promise of the IoT revolution looms large for all aspects of the economy, but it is clear there is still progress to be made, especially with respect to network improvements. Without the power of 5G, the impact will fall far short of expectations. If 5G technologies can truly to deliver 1,000 times more mobile data than today’s cellular systems as some engineers expect, then “the way will be clear for new business models that will be made possible only through this new standard,” asserts Jacobfeuer.
If network operators can achieve this vision, “5G will enable us to cover the needs of a society that is both mobile and connected,” he continues. “Everything will be connected to everything and everyone else, without limits.”
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IEEE Spectrum: Why IoT Needs 5G
OSP Magazine: OSP World: 5G When?