Think back to January 2007 when Steve Jobs first took the stage to announce the iPhone; who could have guessed that 10 years later, 2.32 billion of us would become inseparable from our smartphones?

As of 2017, we use 3.7 exabytes of mobile data a month, and it’s only a matter of time before our rampant data consumption means current telecommunications tech needs to evolve.

5G is coming, and it’s going to shake everything up.

This isn’t just about loading emails faster – it’s about enabling a new era of global connectivity built on:

  • Ultra-fast speeds, averaging 100mbps
  • High-capacity and high-density connectivity for millions of devices
  • Ultra-low 1ms latency transmissions
  • Converged fiber-wireless networking
  • Rural and isolated coverage with scalable data rates

Impressive, but how will it drive business innovation? The answer lies in the Internet of Things.

Sure, IoT is already stirring interest in consumer markets and asset-intensive industries, but its business potential has yet to be fully realized. With the dramatic improvements in connectivity offered by 5G, IoT will expand massively, connecting billions of devices, machines and sensors.

Here are 3 IoT innovations set to become possible in the 5G era.

1: Cloud robots for automated manufacturing

Robots have been a familiar sight on manufacturing production lines for years. But with the introduction of cloud connectivity, what were once “dumb” machines now share data, flag malfunctions and orchestrate activities automatically to increase productivity and minimize risk.

4G and Wi-Fi are fine for basic M2M cloud connectivity, but 5G holds the potential to accelerate the fourth Industrial Revolution (or “‘Industry 4.0.”, as it’s known in manufacturing). Last year, China Mobile and Nokia unveiled their collaboration on synchronized, 5G-enabled robots for industrial use.

To demonstrate its potential, two robots were shown collaborating in sync to balance a ball on a moving platform. The “co-operative cloud robots” achieved this by feeding live low-latency video to each other over a central server.

With 5G delivering low-latency and high-reliability connectivity, companies can use robotics and automation to dramatically improve productivity and safety while reducing manufacturing and logistics costs.

2: Autonomous vehicles

While the likes of Ford and Google have already hit the streets to trial autonomous vehicles, the introduction of 5G could hugely improve the prospects for self-driving vehicles. The key issue, of course, is safety–but with an ultra-low latency 5G connection, driverless vehicles can respond to environmental hazards and remote instruction much, much faster.

While 5G is still some way off, it’s possible that the rising awareness of V2V (vehicle-to-vehicle) and V2I (vehicle-to-infrastructure) connectivity will be a driving force in vehicular innovation. And with latencies as low as 1millisecond (compared to 4G’s 40ms), 5G offers an attractive breakthrough for new autonomous technology.

With 87 percent of car manufacturing executives estimating partial autonomous driving will be commonplace by 2025, the business case for 5G only gets stronger.

3: Emergency response IoT

5G has the potential to revolutionize the way our emergency services deal with crisis situations. With a fast, low-latency connection, firefighters and police officers can stream real-time video from IoT helmet cameras back to a command center.

This feed allows for real-time specialist guidance, which could prove lifesaving, essentially lending the user an extra set of eyes throughout critical situations.

5G will also allow police and emergency services to prioritize bandwidth in a focused location. Given that dense, crowded areas are prone to network dropout, this gives emergency service people a guaranteed connection during crisis situations, regardless of location or population density.

A faster, more reliable future

So when will all this be possible? Widespread commercial 5G applications should become available in 2020. Smart businesses will act now to plan how they’ll use and innovate around 5G. High reliability and low latency offer far more than just better VoIP calls or smoother online gaming—it’s time for businesses to start thinking big.