IoT. 5G. Big data. AI. Edge computing. Cloud.
What’s common among all these buzzwords? Well, these are interesting times to be alive. All the above technologies are evolving almost at the same time. From IoT perspective, there couldn’t be a better timing.
Let’s talk briefly about each of them and see how they’re coming together and complementing each other to make a powerful IoT ecosystem a reality, and creating the stage to transform the world in immediate future.
5G marks one of the first times a telecom network was designed keeping device communication in mind. Contrary to a rather common perception, 5G isn’t all about fast downloads. The other great features 5G intends to bring which will fuel the IoT ecosystem are lower latency, nearly 500 times more connection density than 4G — read: massive IoT support — and effective network utilization with a multitude of enhancements in 5G NR. eMTC and NB-IoT support, introduced in 3GPP Release 13, will continue to be supported in a 5G world. Standard-driven changes, which enable lower cost of devices, better battery life and lower cost per bit over network, will be a great driver to support massive IoT.
Big data and AI
I put big data and AI in the same bucket as the distinction is increasingly blurring. Data by itself doesn’t mean anything unless we have a powerful toolkit to analyze it. AI is increasingly becoming an essential tool for decision-making and controlling IoT devices based on the data generated. For example, an air quality prediction and intervention system will have to process data from thousands of sensors across the city and cross-reference that data with traffic patterns, green zones, buildings, and weather and map data to get valuable insights and suggest actions. Conventional data analysis methods are incapable of handling such a scenario.
Edge computing in simple terms is moving the computing — decision-making and data processing — closer to the source. Approaches with varying degrees of overlap include fog computing, edge nodes, IoT gateways and even private LTE networks, among a variety of others. This is essential to achieve significant optimization in latency and data transfer in use cases like Industry 4.0, where thousands of devices need to be connected — centralized as well as peer to peer — and controlled on- premises. Another simple example of bringing intelligence to the edge is a security camera, which sends the video feed to the cloud only when it detects unfamiliar faces, as compared to the other commonly available security cameras which send video to the cloud all the time.
Cloud gets a special mention here as it creates the ecosystem that enables rapid proliferation and easy accessibility of IoT systems. Major cloud players, like AWS and Azure, have already announced comprehensive IoT stack support integrated with their cloud offerings. This helps new, innovative ventures quickly make their offerings accessible to the masses and rapidly scale up as needed.
The confluence of technologies
With this background, let’s look at some of the use cases that will make a huge impact in the way we see and do things today.
Vehicle to everything
In general, V2X use case refers to a vehicle that is not just autonomous, but even aware of its surroundings, such as pedestrians, traffic, weather and so forth. The importance of this use case can be judged by the fact that it finds its own place in 3GPP Release 15 feature list. Low latency is critical, as is the machine learning used to adapt to continuously changing conditions. Cloud-based control could be used for relatively static scenarios, like passenger transport over predefined routes.
Using virtual reality and haptic feedback, doctors can participate in a remote surgery with precision. This will make quality healthcare further accessible to the masses.
Similarly, emergency response personnel can find and rescue people in emergency operations using remote-controlled robotic equipment without endangering their lives.
It’s easy to imagine the transformational effect of IoT, along with the other technologies we discussed above, on manufacturing, defense, healthcare, retail, logistics, supply chain and so on. This wave of transformation is called Industry 4.0. The quality and efficiency boost is driving businesses to increasingly adopt this change, as profitability increase is promising and adapting to changes becomes easy. But probably the greatest beneficiary would be the environment.
Which use cases of the above technologies do you think are possible? Share your thoughts!
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