So much of the conversation about 5G has understandably focused on one of the key benefits of speed, but that’s not the only way enterprises are going to use its powerful capabilities. Each company will have specific ways that they want to put 5G to work.
So let’s talk specifics. Which, by the way, is what the new Sprint 5G Use Case Library is all about. It’s an easy-to-use reference tool that addresses almost two dozen use cases in four general categories that all require something different from the network.
These four categories are IoT, wireless broadband, ultra-low latency, and connected vehicles. We’re going to walk through each of these categories in a separate post, starting today with IoT.
IoT, the Internet of Things, has been a long time coming, but with 5G we’re going to see all the puzzle pieces fall into place. That’s because 5G is designed for a vast range of connected devices, from simple, stationary low-power sensors to always-mobile autonomous cars and drones.
Now let’s look at a few IoT use cases.
Whether you are concerned about keeping track of equipment, or your warehouse inventory, or the vehicles you use to move that inventory around, 5G-enabled IoT will have the answer. Without the aid of advanced technology, this tracking can be a labor-intensive process – and one that is prone to errors.
With IoT, of course, you could place individual sensors on each piece of inventory and let your system do the tracking. Or take the next step and monitor the real-time conditions and locations of your assets. You could even use robots connected by sensors to take inventory and map it to the exact location within the warehouse.
5G will offer the enhanced indoor and outdoor coverage needed for these types of applications, as well as high density in compact locations and low power consumption.
Communication is essential to the smart factory. For instance, picture a factory floor filled with intelligent, multifunctional robots. Through their IoT sensors and the ability to communicate with each other, they are able to assign themselves tasks and work cooperatively and efficiently.
Thanks to the mobility and wire-free operation that 5G will enable, as well as its low latency, this smart factory could immediately identify bottlenecks in production and dynamically adjust processes to improve output.
Wireless industrial control
5G will be able to provide wireless industrial control where it previously hasn’t been possible because of the level of latency needed for optimal operation. This will allow a manufacturing operation, for instance, to fill its factory with mobile, secure IoT devices with wired-quality connections.
With 5G, there will no longer be any concern about the wear and tear of cables. An operation can ensure that the equipment that must be highly mobile – such as robots – can always remain connected. A company could, for example, reconfigure its assembly line on the fly, since its robotic workers are ultimately mobile and flexible.
One other advantage is that leveraging 5G in this way will allow closed-loop systems that require super-fast cycle-time ranges to go wireless, thanks to the combination of high uplink data rates, low latency, and high reliability and availability.
Smart home monitoring
Today, a smart thermostat system can use temperature sensors, motion sensors and phone geofencing to keep your home the right temperature at the right time, as well as connected to the internet for remote-control features.
As smart home advances continue, other possibilities – from sleep tracking, to diet, exercise, entertainment and security – will become common, creating a whole new wave of business opportunities. With homes filled with intelligent sensors, the ways in which they connect with services and provide business insights will be limited only by our creativity.
5G will enhance all this through its support for group connections and its capabilities for low-volume, low-frequency updates.
Many cancer patients who schedule their cancer treatments can be turned away due to low blood counts, wasting their time as well as hospital resources. But with an at-home sensor device, those blood counts could be monitored, updating the doctor or hospital and making it possible to schedule treatment at an optimal time.
This type of home bio-connectivity could even come to replace our annual health checkups in favor of a daily scan. With 5G, this type of application will become more prevalent, enabling more conditions to be detected earlier and treated more effectively, even remotely.
With 5G, we will see smart watches and other devices become much more capable, delivering seamless service continuity while moving in and out of range of a smartphone.
Add to that data speeds high enough to enable computing and storage delivered as a cloud service, and these smart watches (or smart glasses, for instance) will advance from being a supplemental device to a powerful standalone system.
For businesses, this presents the opportunity to create, use and market wearable devices such as AR goggles and trackers. It will also enable companies to augment their employees’ skills, allowing a field service technician to get instructions in the lenses of their glasses or a factory worker to track their motions in order to prevent injuries.