The combination of 5G and IoT (internet of things) has the potential to transform virtually every industry in the not-so-distant future.

5G brings a faster and more responsive network for connecting the vast number of IoT devices and sensors that will be involved in this transformation. It will help drive mass IoT implementations, enabling the efficient collection, transmission, and leveraging of unprecedented volumes of data.

The greatest potential is in shared real-time data between and among various devices, machines, sensors, and any other connected thing. In general, the more assets that an organization operates or manages, the more enticing its IoT opportunity. Even though many industries will see IoT transformation, there are six industries that are likeliest to lead the way, getting started earlier and moving more quickly. They are:

1. Healthcare: With 5G, the care ecosystem will be connected, to benefit both patients and caregivers. The connected hospital will help improve patient outcomes as augmented reality technology improves the training and skills of staff and advances in data analysis support quicker interventions.

In an emergency, ambulances will be able to seamlessly communicate with hospital staff, chronic and newly released patients will be closely monitored through innovative connected technology, and elderly patients will be assisted by robots. It will soon become possible for patient diagnoses, examinations, and follow-ups to be performed remotely. The data analysis available from IoT sensors will allow for therapeutic responses that can keep people from needing to go to the hospital. These advancements become possible with a high-bandwidth, low-latency, and highly reliable network.

2. Manufacturing: Automated manufacturing will continue to increase, as IoT advances the ability of machines to directly communicate and self-coordinate production with minimal human involvement. Mobile, remote-controlled robots will become more prevalent with ultra-reliable, low-latency networking related to 5G.

Advanced inventory tracking will enable automated workflows with suppliers and customers, including highly connected ecosystems. This requires latency connectivity, handling data from a wide variety of distributed internal and external sources.

3. Energy: In an increasingly complex sector driven by decentralized power generation and a focus on renewable energy, companies in this industry can achieve the efficiency they need by becoming more agile. As they connect assets across the generation, transmission, and distribution aspects of their operations, their field service teams will benefit from improved remote monitoring capabilities and innovative digital support. This requires dense, reliable, low-latency networks.

4. Automotive: The combination of IoT and 5G will build on the current transformation of an industry increasingly focused on autonomous driving, electric vehicles, and vehicle-sharing platforms. As autonomous vehicle fleets begin to replace private and public transport vehicles, there will be a critical need for intense, real-time vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure connectivity to coordinate traffic flows.

With IoT sensors, cameras, and artificial intelligence, fleet management and driver safety programs will be enhanced, reducing accidents and smoothing traffic flows. The numbers of sensors in vehicles and elsewhere will be huge, and they will all require dense, low-latency networks.

5. Retail: The retail industry will see improvements in customer experience with IoT-fed artificial intelligence. Adding 5G will bring customers a more tailored and streamlined experience, at home or in-store. Retailers will be able to optimize their store layout and product positioning with the help of video analytics. With augmented or virtual reality, customers will enjoy personalized experiences shopping or contacting customer care.

6. Public sector: The public sector’s diverse infrastructure-based assets will become increasingly digitized. Among the applications are real-time management of citywide video surveillance, remote monitoring and management of traffic and road conditions, and improved emergency response initiatives. Public transportation efficiency will be enhanced, in ways ranging from automated rail traffic management to construction and maintenance monitoring.

The ways that these industries will take advantage of IoT and 5G are explored in depth in a white paper from Arthur D. Little and Sprint that focuses on how these technologies will impact business.

Getting started

If your company is in one of these six industries – or you are looking to start leading the way in another industry – there is an important point to keep in mind: even though 5G is fundamental to massive, dense deployments of IoT, it doesn’t mean that you have to wait for 5G before you can get started.

Using existing 4G networks, you can start building your own IoT ecosystem right now. Step one is to determine where your business is today and your best path to the 5G-IoT future. Consulting with a 5G and IoT specialist can provide you the insight needed to determine your short-term and long-term plans.

With that understanding, you can evaluate the ways in which 4G-IoT and eventually 5G-IoT will be able to help you achieve your objectives and assess the specific technologies and solutions you will need. The next step is to establish the best ways to connect all of your things, build a business case, and craft – with the help of your 5G-IoT specialist – a solid implementation plan.