By 2025, the overall market value of smart city initiatives that combine the internet of things (IoT) with artificial intelligence (AI) is expected to reach 2 trillion dollars. The top 600 cities alone comprise 60% of global GDP.
With so much capital invested into converting the most vibrant centers of commerce and culture into self-regulating automated organisms, the question must be asked: Do we have enough data for that? The answer: Yes — but only with the help of 5G.
What is a Smart City?
A smart city can be defined as an urban area that relies on a network of sensors and data collection systems to facilitate its operations. They are highly dependent on 5G.
A few examples of smart city sensors include:
- Traffic light sensors that alter light time to regulate traffic flow.
- Smart parking meters that notify occupants of meter expiration and let them renew their subscription.
- Digital water meters that eliminate the need for physical readers.
- Smart trash cans that notify garbage companies of needed collection, eliminating unnecessary routes.
- Digital bus passes that reduce onboarding time to make public transportation more efficient.
At the heart of each of these is a need to make the most congested places in the world flow more efficiently. This is done by automating once-tedious tasks so precious time and money can be spent on more pressing needs. This includes reducing traffic flow and helping workers be more productive at the office — which generates more wealth and reduces income inequality.
How 5G Will Make Smart Cities a Reality
By automating municipal processes like water and trash collection, city budgets become less hindered by unnecessary expenses. This frees them up to address social needs like healthcare and education. Add to that the environmental benefits of a lower carbon footprint due to greater efficiency and the interconnection of smart cities is found to improve nearly every aspect of urban life.
The only problem: all that connectivity is impossible without a network possessing a bandwidth big enough to support it. That's where 5G comes into play.
The millimeter-long wavelength (mmWave) of 5G technology allows for a transmission frequency in the 6 to 100 GHz range, where prior 4G LTE technology operated below 6 GHz. This means that similar to the number of lanes on a highway affecting traffic flow, 4G internet had a much more constricted space over which information could be sent. With 5G internet, the available bandwidth is multiple times greater than its ancestor network ever could have hoped for — allowing for more data transmission at a speed that can accommodate the digital influx a smart city demands.
In short, 5G internet broadens the information highway so that smart cities will have the room they need to fly.
By 2023, an estimated 70% of automobiles will be connected to the internet. This shows that vehicles will be among the most prevalent parts of the IoT ecosystem — and smart city technology as a whole. Already, $100 billion has been invested in self-driving technology. While 1,400 automated vehicles (AV) are already on the road, rapid investment by tech giants like Google and Tesla into these smart machines has given some experts reason to believe that as many as 10 million AVs may hit the street within the next year.
These mobile connection points are massive data generators, as self-driving vehicles can create up to 30 terabytes of data in a single day. This means that if a truly automated infrastructure is ever to become a reality, it will require a network with a capacity for such digital traffic. An autonomous infrastructure will also require a network that's as continuous as it is spacious, as loss of connection could mean significant disruption for the AVs that depend on it.
The superior bandwidth of 5G internet meets the need for both capacity and ubiquity. The decentralized nature of microcell distribution over which 5G internet is transmitted will supply a network that can continuously give and receive data from self-driving cars wherever they are. Self-driving vehicles will not only be data recipients from a 5G network but also will function within the IoT economy as mobile data centers, transmitting real-time information to other vehicles around them. In so doing, the AV network will form a symbiotic relationship with the 5G network and surrounding IoT devices, feeding back into the system that makes it go.
A smoother ride and streamlined municipal processes are a few aspects that characterize smart cities transformed by a 5G network. Productivity and connection, meanwhile, will be the signs that manufacturing methods have been swept up by the digital tide. Production downtime has always been a profit drain for manufacturers, and nearly any solution that can keep assembly lines up and running will boost the bottom line.
One of the best ways to combat machine downtime is to ensure your components don't break in the first place. By designing machines with built-in alert capabilities that notify technicians when their time for maintenance has come, engineers have reduced component breakdown — and they've plugged in the IoT to do it. Where legacy systems once required periodic checkups to make sure they were running well, smart machines can monitor their own performance, even diagnosing themselves.
Of course, such self-awareness is impossible for machines to achieve without a connection to a network that can support it. The reliability of 5G internet enables machines to monitor their own processes in real-time without interruption so that they can receive continuous input on their own operations. This lets them send prompt notifications to technicians when repairs are needed. The presence of sensors across multiple machine components enables them to convey information about the problem so that technicians can find the fix faster.
Whether it's consistent prophylactic maintenance or self-diagnosis, 5G internet has empowered machines on the assembly line to join the IoT, reducing downtime and saving companies millions.
A Connected Workforce
Another sign of transformation from the 5G revolution is the connectivity of its workforce — both to each other and the IoT.
Through remote support services empowered by wearable tech like Smartglasses and augmented reality devices (AR), technicians on the manufacturing floor find themselves linked to the broader IoT world.
This gives them a few advantages, namely:
- Machine insights: With immediate access to component blueprints and specs, technicians have all the knowledge they need at the tip of their fingers. This enables them to fix their machines faster, further reducing costly downtime.
- Third-party access: Even with extra information made available to them, sometimes supplier feedback is a must. Rather than arranging a flight to bring in a representative, component suppliers can be transferred virtually to the factory floor the moment they don their AR gear.
- Clear communication: Even when suppliers are consulted, obstacles like language barriers can slow the process down. The real-time translation ability of AR devices clarifies communication between all parties. It can also bring in as many team members as it takes to fix the problem quickly.
The Future of Industrial IoT
The advantages that AR tech brings to the factory floor are innumerable, but without 5G, they're also impossible. Transmitting real-time component data to an AR device requires negligible latency if it's to be done on a massive scale, especially if translation with a supplier representative is needed. Not only that, but the kind of network reliability required for onsite web access in some industries demands the stability that only 5G technology can provide. Between its speed, reliability, and strength, 5G internet is the best way for industries to implement the productivity advancements that the IoT has brought forth.
IoT trends are already booming in 2021. Numerous companies are already utilizing 5G technology. They're using it to help businesses and workers stay plugged and streamline processes to be as efficient as possible.
Some of the most popular trends from industry pioneers include 5G internet service and physical modems and routers.
What companies are leading in 5G technologies?
If 5G is going to transform cities and industries as it's expected, a logical follow-up is to ask which companies are leading the charge.
The list is long, so we can't name them all — but here are a few of the most noteworthy 5G pioneers:
- Samsung: Beginning with research in 2011, Samsung is one of the first to investigate all that 5G has to offer. Their 2016 demonstration of a multi-cell signal handover within a moving vehicle while maintaining gigabit speeds proves that they were among those that first considered how 5G technology could apply to self-driving cars. The compatibility of their many phones with 5G internet shows they weren't just thinking of cars.
- Huawei: Recent trade restrictions may have stifled this Chinese tech giant's popularity in the U.S., but their scope and ambition remains undeterred. In a recent statement, Huawei officials announced an increasing focus on self-driving electric cars, hoping to release their first by 2025.
- Verizon: Instead of self-driving cars, this leading mobile provider has focused its efforts on bringing 5G internet to the masses. On top of developing the towers and stations that will transmit 5G across the U.S., Verizon has also been a key player in informing digital policies that shape our use of data.
- Qualcomm: If 5G is to be widely adapted and help smart cities flourish, someone has to build the physical products that make the network run. Making everything from modems and routers to chips and antennae, Qualcomm puts the 5G rubber (or silicon) to the digital road — and they're essential because of it.
Other companies like AT&T, Nokia, and Cisco Systems have also made tremendous contributions to 5G. The number of ways that this next-gen tech can be advanced and deployed is so vast that there's room for them all to play — and that's part of the beauty of it. From education and healthcare to traffic and tech, the number of advancements made possible by 5G touches every part of our lives. There's truly no end to the number of companies that either create the networks of tomorrow, or that depend on them today.
5G in cities matters because cities matter, and cities matter because people matter. Their cultural and commercial vibrance makes cities a reflection of the people they're made of — so if you want to know how 5G can build a better city, ask how 5G can help people live better lives. Efficient, sustainable communities and a modernized workforce are a few of those ways, but the applications extend far beyond that.
We at Novotech are excited to see where it goes. If you're looking to stay connected with the latest technology and internet services, reach out and discover how Novotech can help.