By Matt Jackson, VP & National General Manager, Digital Innovation at Insight
One of the ongoing themes we explore on this blog is separating what’s real from what’s possible when it comes to emerging technology. From AI to IoT, we’re seeing technology advance at an exponential rate.
In our last post, my colleague Amol brought us up to speed on the state of IoT and how it’s impacting our everyday lives. One of the key challenges to widespread adoption he identified was reliable connectivity — something 5G is poised to help us overcome. That said, across use cases, we need to be realistic about where we are with 5G.
What is 5G?
Many of us have heard of 5G in the context of mobile networks, with service providers promising the arrival of 5G and better connectivity. But 5G is about far more than that. It provides high bandwidth, low latency, low power, ultra-reliable and low-cost connectivity, making it an ideal solution for certain applications, especially in the enterprise space.
What 5G Can’t Do
5G is a powerful technology that is poised to revolutionize the way we compute, connect devices and interact with machines. But that doesn’t mean it’s without its limitations.
5G is lower power than other bandwidths, so its frequencies can’t go as far and cannot penetrate certain materials (such as a thick concrete wall). As a result, it requires a variety of sensors to maintain continuous connectivity. That ultimately means that it isn’t an ideal solution for use cases where devices are dispersed across a widespread area.
What 5G Can Do
So what can 5G actually do in the near term?
One of the key benefits of 5G is that it allows users to connect a large volume of devices in an efficient, cost-effective way. Moreover, it streams data to the cloud faster, and allows for quicker algorithms and more advanced processing — in short, allowing users to harness the power of cloud computing at the edge.
These benefits, combined with the current limitations facing 5G, make it ideal for applications in high-density areas, such as cities. As such, it can revolutionize the way we address public safety through safe spaces. (Take a look at what we’re doing at Insight with safe spaces technology, as well as how we helped deploy this technology in Houston-area schools — and this is without 5G, so imagine the possibilities when more information can be transmitted faster.)
From a business perspective, 5G also may help as we move towards more autonomous technology. Consider, for example, a logistics business using autonomous vehicles to move goods. 5G technology could, in theory, move the computing power necessary to process analytics in real time from the edge up to the cloud — allowing the vehicles to communicate safety, speed and location data better and faster among each other. We’re not quite there yet, in terms of making this use case a reality, but it’s the type of situation where 5G could facilitate a cost-effective, reliable solution.
What do businesses need to know to make the most out of 5G?
If there’s one takeaway from this post, it’s that 5G isn’t there yet. It’s getting there, but it’s not widely available and we haven’t fully unlocked its potential.
That means businesses have an opportunity to get a leg up on their competitors by starting to plan now. Think about the use cases where 5G would make sense for your business. What AI are you using? What devices are you using? How might the speed and power of 5G — once available — help you level up those technologies?
The key is to be visionary. Position yourself to be an early adopter. Be innovative. Be prepared to jump on the opportunity in two to three years when 5G has become democratized and accessible.
In other words, even if 5G is still in its infancy, there is reason to be excited and optimistic about its potential.
Matt leads Insight’s Digital Innovation team in the design of enterprise software solutions, focusing on modern enterprise applications and security architectures. His passion goes beyond achieving operational excellence and deeper into transforming organizations. Read more thoughts from Matt.