5G and IoT – the internet of things – is really a marriage made in heaven. The broad range of performance capabilities of 5G will make many more IoT use cases possible that aren’t conceivable with 4G, and in return, IoT will be a key driver for speeding the wide deployment of 5G.

With 5G, network downloads are dramatically faster and more responsive, capable of serving many times more connected devices. As networks evolve to eventually deliver ultra-low latency and ultra-reliable IoT applications, business will be able to go far beyond just having faster smartphones. 5G will make it possible for companies to drive innovation, maximize efficiency, and generate entirely new business models that aren’t possible with 4G.

From the IoT standpoint, the emergence – and appeal – of connectedness has driven a need for expanded technical capabilities and network characteristics. Particularly important to certain IoT use cases are latency, so that IoT functions approach true real-time operation and communication, as well as reliability, connection density, capacity, and speed.

And since that is what 5G brings to the table, it will support use cases that scale up to 100’s of thousands of devices per square kilometer. But one thing important to remember is that you don’t have to wait for 5G to arrive to get started. You can do many of these things with current 4G networks.

Becoming IoT users today

While almost any company in any industry can take advantage of IoT, several industries are particularly primed for IoT. Among them are healthcare, manufacturing, energy, transportation and automotive, retail, and the public sector.

In healthcare, remote patient monitoring is just one example of an IoT application, and in manufacturing, the use of autonomous industrial robots is growing rapidly.

Utilities can more widely deploy smart meters and build smart grids. In transportation, fleet management is an ideal application, while in the public and enterprise sectors, video surveillance and analytics holds great promise for more proactive security, more efficient traffic and parking, and improved operations and customer experience.

If some of these applications already sound familiar, it’s because many aren’t 5G-dependent. Numerous IoT applications are already technically and economically viable using existing 4G networks today. The introduction of 5G will serve to enhance these applications.

There is no reason why a company needs to wait until 5G before taking advantage of IoT’s potential.

5G business cases

Most 5G use cases fit into three broad categories, although they can fit an almost endless number of specific enterprise and industrial applications. Briefly, those categories are:

Enhanced Broadband: 5G delivers wireless performance that is essentially as fast and robust as fixed line connections, providing an enhanced user experience. This isn’t limited to IoT devices. Smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices will all benefit from the speed of 5G.

Massive IoT Sensing: With 5G, the number of connected devices that can be handled is increased by a factor of 10, with vastly superior energy efficiency. That is ideal for the massive number of IoT use cases that will become practical as the cost of connections declines with 5G.

Critical IoT: This describes use cases that are especially time-sensitive, with extremely high reliability requirements. Examples might be connected machines that operate autonomously and need ultra-low latency in order to react to external factors and inputs in real time.

Going forward with IoT

So, what business benefits can you expect from IoT? Start with vastly increased efficiency, as you replace manual processes with IoT-based automated ones. Then, add in far greater visibility into your business assets and the data connected with them. You can monitor assets and operations remotely and easily gather and act on the data that you collect and analyze.

Importantly, you can improve and optimize your customers’ experience as they do business with you. IoT can improve customer care by reducing time to action and the frequency of interactions, as well as gaining a greater understanding of how customers interact with you.

And as 5G becomes more widely available, IoT applications will continue to spread beyond what can be done with 4G today, offering greater reliability and opportunities to discover new ways of working in tandem with new operations. IoT also opens the door to product and service innovation, as companies become not just users of IoT devices, but discover ways to leverage them in their own products for incremental revenue sources.

All of these topics are addressed in depth in a new white paper from Arthur D. Little and Sprint that focuses on how IoT and 5G will impact business. The white paper also looks at six key steps that each business needs to take as it begins its IoT journey.

The first of those steps is the most important, which is understanding where your company stands today and developing a vision for your future IoT- and 5G-centric operations and how they will enhance your business.

To develop that vision, it is worth taking the time to visit with a 5G and IoT specialist, someone who can guide you in the direction you want to go, and perhaps even show you new directions you hadn’t even thought of.