The promise of 5G for the internet of things has been widely touted: faster connections, increased security, greater bandwidth and more. These important features expand our current connected abilities and facilitate the technology of the future. This is by design — since 5G is actively in development, service providers are intentionally building a purpose-built network for IoT, ultimately accelerating adoption and increasing real-world applications.
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When operators begin to offer 5G — some say 2020, some hint at sooner — 20.8 billion things will already be connected, and IoT will be ready to reap this next-generation network’s benefits, from speed to data bandwidth flexibility.
Three industries stand out as benefiting immediately from the advent of the 5G network: the connected car, smart cities and fleet management.
The connected car
The connected car is a powerful IoT device that will soon be the largest access point for consumers to engage and benefit from IoT, whether that be features that make a customer’s life easier (e.g., over-the-air updates, remote check-up) or more enjoyable (e.g., infotainment, in-car Wi-Fi hotspots, safety). The demand for connected vehicles is growing steadily — mobile carriers like AT&T are connecting more cars than phones to their networks, and by 2021, more than 380 million connected vehicles will be on the road.
The connected car will benefit immensely from the introduction of 5G networks, utilizing its flexibility in managing high bandwidth, low-data needs for machine-type communications — including over-the-air updates and remote check-ups — and its high speed for smaller data quantities (e.g., autonomous vehicles). 5G’s larger data bandwidth will also enhance existing IoT-connected services, like streaming content, Wi-Fi spots and safety features.
Smart cities, which use a wide range of IoT-connected devices — from energy-efficient streetlights to smart traffic lights and sensors — will function more efficiently and seamlessly with this next-generation network. 5G’s built-in flexibility will be able to handle a range of data needs, which is especially useful for smart cities given their variety of device requirements, whether that’s low power needs from a disparate group of sensors (e.g., smart parking) or seamless connectivity to reduce latency (e.g., real-time traffic inputs).
For current low power needs, we’ve seen success with low-power wide area network (LPWAN) technologies like that of LoRa, which efficiently handle connectivity for low data usage applications. For current low latency needs, we’ve relied primarily on 4G and 3G networks. However, with 5G’s built-in flexibility, data usage efficiency and lower latency, smart cities will boast more comprehensive, real-time systems that apply to a myriad of use-cases — ultimately allowing cities to run more efficiently and to offer a better, more convenient experience for the people who live in them.
5G’s flexibility, relative to its predecessors, enables companies to optimize devices to specific use cases. With fleet management, 5G’s high bandwidth will be essential for efficient machine-type communications that require large quantities of data. With this network, commercial vehicles across the world can send remote updates on engine performance, total miles driven, streaming video to identify fault in the case of accidents and more. When transportation companies can detect when one truck is operating at an optimal 40 mpg and another truck is operating at 38 mpg, they can run diagnostics to determine what isn’t operating correctly. This eliminates unnecessary maintenance trips, optimizing drive time and fuel efficiency.
With an increasingly global economy, efficient transportation of goods across the country and around the world has become more crucial than ever — yet long waits still plague the industry, particularly among freight companies. 5G’s data-efficient network represents a large opportunity for the transportation industry to cut shipping costs so that companies across industries can provide better services to customers.
With the arrival of 5G in the next few years, the business outcomes that IoT is already delivering today will be enhanced even more. Greater flexibility, data efficiency and speed will help optimize current technologies like the connected car, smart cities and fleet telematics — ultimately providing better solutions for consumers and companies alike.
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