15 March 2021
10 innovative 5G use cases: What 5G is actually capable of
5G use cases will pave the way for automated vehicles, smart cities, automated factories and a new wave of business communications. According to the results of a study by Accenture, 79% of businesses worldwide believe that 5G will have a significant impact on their organisation. And 57% of those believe that it will be revolutionary.
There are already some amazing 5G use cases out there. Because 5G networks are still being rolled out, many of these use cases are actually in the test or proof-of-concept phase, using prototype networks, devices or other technology. But the idea of gathering them here is to show the huge future potential of 5G technology.
1. Smart cities
Network operators are already looking to showcase what can be achieved with 5G technology, and one such 5G use case is the Alba Iulia Smart City, which has utilised congestion monitoring, parking sensors and smart waste management.
Smart factories will also be enabled by 5G, including more robots in production lines and drones in last-mile delivery. It will also enable car-to-car communication about hazards and incidents, as well as fully-automated cars.
2. Autonomous vehicles
The CTO of Waymo, which started as the Google Self-Driving Car Project, believes that 5G is a crucial “enabler" when it comes to developing the company’s autonomous car fleets.
“I think it’ll help in terms of communication [and with] latency and bandwidth,” explains Dmitri Dolgov, Waymo’s CTO. “Our cars still have to rely on onboard computation for anything that is safety-critical, but 5G will be an accelerator."
Our cars still have to rely on onboard computation for anything that is safety-critical, but 5G will be an accelerator.
O2 has also now announced a project to trial driverless cars in London using its 5G network.
“We know that by powering the transport sector we can make a real difference to consumers by reducing traffic congestion, making journeys safer and faster," said Brendan O’Reilly, chief technology officer at O2.
3. Improved viewing experience at sporting events
Connectivity is increasingly important at sporting events. No longer are fans content with simply watching the game in front of them; they want to be able to access additional information, watch video highlights and post content on social media.
Some sports organisations fear that spectators will stay at home if they are unable to connect. However, existing mobile and Wi-Fi networks lack the capacity for such densely-populated environments, which is why venues and operators are so excited about 5G.
Research from Amdocs and Ovum suggests 91 percent of the world’s leading mobile operators plan to hold trials of 5G sporting experiences at stadiums.
This will not only increase fan satisfaction but also enable new experiences. The German FA even plans to let fans view data insights in real-time – such as how fast a player is sprinting – using Augmented Reality.
4. 5G drones
Verizon wants to be the first telco to use 5G to enable a million connected flights of 5G drones. That's some ambition, but the idea has some backing since Verizon bought Skyward in 2016 – an organization specializing in drone operations for businesses and enterprises.
The plan is to enable as many drones as possible to be connected and to transmit video footage in real-time, and also to relay back other intelligence such as levels of stock in a warehouse.
5G will usher in a new era in aviation, where we connect and integrate drones into the national airspace.
“We've already started testing connected drones on 5G on the Verizon Network,” said Mariah Scott, president of Skyward. “We knew early on that connectivity would be critical for drones. And now 5G will usher in a new era in aviation, where we connect and integrate drones into the national airspace.”
5. Immersive entertainment
5G tech was also showcased in the real-time rendering of effects from Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Walt Disney Studios’ StudioLAB had a demo at the premiere afterparty in Hollywood where guests were able to interact with Sith troopers in real-time.
Two actors played the troopers working in a remote location 15 miles away. Those who took part in the demo could approach a screen and interact with the two Sith troopers. The troopers were able to react in real-time.
“The speed and low latency of 5G can unlock incredible creative capabilities,” added Ben Havey at Disney Studios StudioLAB. “We want to give storytellers early access to this new technology so they can continue to bring unparalleled experiences to audiences around the world.”
6. Public transport
Virgin has been testing out 5G-powered Wi-Fi on its trains. The company believes it is the first railway company to trial the new tech. The trial happened on services between London Euston and Birmingham New Street, and between London Euston and Manchester Piccadilly.
Virgin says the speeds seen were up to ten times faster than current on-board Wi-Fi.
Elsewhere, a new partnership between the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART), the fifth busiest public transportation system in the US by passenger numbers, and Mobilitie, the largest privately-held wireless infrastructure firm in the nation, is ensuring that the city’s trains are 5G ready.
The advantages to manufacturers are many; think high-precision assembly lines where all machines and robots are perfectly in sync in real-time, the mass-adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT) and even humans controlling machines via touch. However, the first generation of 5G networks tend to offer around 10ms latency, so, for now, that is still an issue. Expect second-generation 5G networks to be mostly about reducing latency.
The aim is to predict problems, see problems emerge in real-time and reduce production downtime.
Also known as Industry 4.0, this is about abandoning the old ways to embrace connected systems to encourage more streamlined automation in a closed environment. With the Internet of Things (IoT) in full deployment and connected sensors on every machine, the aim is to predict problems, see problems emerge in real-time and reduce production downtime. The secret sauce will be AI-capable analytics software to crunch real-time data on every machine and piece of equipment.
Traditional industries such as agriculture will also use sensors to collate real-time information about fertilisation, livestock and moisture needs, helping to conserve energy. And we are already seeing the emergence of smart farms, with services such as the MooCall sensor and app now being powered by 5G. MooCall is a sensor that attaches to the tail of cows, and then alerts farmers when a cow is about to give birth (cows move their tails more just before and during labour).
Finland’s Elisa network has a new 5G demo space in Helsinki, where it is demonstrating a remote-controlled tractor. The system has been developed with tractor company Valtra, and it works using 5G (of course). You can control it from vast distances away, using a 360-degree camera mounted on the top, which sends 4K images back to the driver.
Another area of agriculture being transformed by 5G is precision farming, also known as "smart farming," which is all about applying precise treatments to crops, so instead of treating an entire field the same, farmers can give each row exactly what it needs. It’s all about reducing inputs, from water and food to fertiliser and herbicides.
The health industry will offer remote diagnosis and operations, as well as e-health and responsive wearables, and AI assistants might help people with disabilities. Companies such as the interactive physiotherapy specialist Immersive Rehab are already looking at how 5G can improve their offering, and 5G is being used in various trials such as the Liverpool 5G Testbed.
Elsewhere, O2 has developed a deal with Samsung and the NHS to test out “smart ambulances” equipped with 5G technology. O2 will test the technology on six ambulances which will allow for new services such as real-time video technology and high-quality scanners.
The construction industry has always looked at new technologies as a way to improve safety and working practises, and 5G is no different.
KT and Hyundai Engineering & Construction have announced that they will work together to build 5G networks at construction sites, with an aim to develop construction and automation technology. Using 5G infrastructure, we could see autonomous construction robots, and 5G will also be used to improve other technologies with better productivity and monitoring at construction sites.