Shall We, 5G? The High-Speed Network Changing Your World - OZY | A Modern Media Company

Shall We, 5G? The High-Speed Network Changing Your World

Shall We, 5G? The High-Speed Network Changing Your World

By Sohini Das Gupta

By Sohini Das Gupta

With the delta variant of COVID-19 spreading wildly across the U.S. and large parts of the world, one thing is clear: Our pre-pandemic life of full-on physical interactions isn’t returning anytime soon. The good news? The juice of technology — specifically 5G telecommunications — could elevate the otherwise soul-draining experience of constantly staring at our screens.

You can feel the “touch” of your long-distance lover, download movies faster than ever and travel in driverless vehicles with previously unimaginable reaction time. But 5G will also change our lives in other, more impactful ways: facilitating breakthroughs in fields of science, health, the future of work and just about anything else you can think of. Today’s Daily Dose delves into the world of tomorrow’s mobile communication.

WHERE DO WE STAND?

Health Care Hope

How many times during the past 18 months have you mourned the lack of ready access to medical assistance for ailments other than COVID-19? The pandemic has accelerated the shift toward virtual medicine, which is expected to represent a $3.8 billion market by 2024. Now throw 5G into the mix. With the help of improved augmented reality (AR) glasses, first responders could connect emergency patients to experts many miles away. Crucially, specialists can respond in real time because of the low latency of 5G. This could prove lifesaving, especially in large parts of the developing world where doctors aren’t easily available outside big cities. Meanwhile, a Norwegian medtech company is developing remote, real-time heart monitoring with wearable ECG devices.

Transportation Trick

At just over 200 milliseconds, human reaction to speed isn’t always adequate when you need to pump the car brakes. Cut to 5G’s five-millisecond response, and your chances of avoiding a road crash improve dramatically if you’re in an autonomous vehicle (AV). What’s more, you also have real-time information on speeding vehicles next to you or upcoming roadblocks. Sure, over 40% of American drivers are currently afraid to ride in a self-driving vehicle. And indeed, self-driving cars have been involved in deadly crashes. But with 5G’s low latency, expect some of that resistance to dissipate in the years ahead. By 2040, as many as 33 million AVs are predicted to hit the road. Terrestrial networks aside, 5G satellites can ensure that an AV driving in remote or rural locations does not suffer slow internet.

Creative Kick

Imagine this: You’re at the Hollywood premiere of a Star Wars movie. With cutting-edge 5G-enabled technology, you interact with the Sith troopers in real time. This isn’t some futuristic drivel but the real experience of some lucky guests who, at the premiere after-party of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019), geeked out, 5G-style. The actors playing the troopers were operating from a remote location 15 miles away. Be it immersive movies, theater, gaming, music, mobile journalism or holographic advertisement, 5G will transform how we develop, consume and even perceive creative content.

ALL WORK AND SOME PLAY

Remote Working

“Are you there? Can you hear me?”; “I can’t see you!” There’s a good chance that these urgent appeals have been a mainstay in your work Zoom calls for the past 18 months. But if part- or full-time remote working is the future, we need something better. Enter 5G — the end of awkward work calls. It will also allow users to transfer data quickly via emails or cloud systems. With stable connectivity and remote access, you can ditch your local café and its overpriced coffee and instead work from just about anywhere. And with 5G satellites coming into play in the years ahead, a road trip through Nebraska or a romp in Utah does not have to come at the cost of your precious annual leave. You can work, play and travel all at the same time.

Upskilling

Imagine trying to fix a piece of machinery that you’ve never seen before. Seems impossible, right? But by strapping on an AR headset, you can carry out instructions from an expert anywhere on the planet. Across industries, 5G is expected to take over rote work, allowing employees to commit their time to creative tasks like analysis and strategic thinking. An Ericsson factory in Lewisville, Texas, has already reported successful use of AR in assisting on-site workers with remote personnel who operate drones around the facility. Those with “cognitive-physical skills” — boasting virtues of both blue and white-collar jobs — for new-age tasks assisted by automated systems will be in demand. Experts believe that 5G will most positively impact industries like telecommunications, health care, manufacturing, retail, transportation and agriculture.

Sporting Success

The world of professional sports is blink-and-miss. With 5G-savvy sensor and camera-based systems, it is set to play out even faster — but with transformative experiences. “A savvy league like the NBA is already experimenting with in-stadium experiences,” Jon Metzler, a lecturer at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley and an expert on 5G, tells OZY. With advanced AR headsets and screens operating in a “connected” stadium, users could view stats and data overlaid on the field of play in real time. What’s more, AR and virtual reality (VR) will allow sports fans to share their experiences in real time with friends in another city or country, who can join your celebrations (Cue: Olay Olay Olay) via 360-degree video!

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DIGITAL LOVE

Distant Touch

When the Eagles crooned “Love Will Keep Us Alive” in the early ’90s, flip phones were only just coming on the scene. In the era of 5G, speedy internet might be what keeps love alive. Speaking as one-half of a couple separated by the pandemic, technology is a loyal third wheel. I idolize the profundity of Keatsian love letters, but on most days, affection is best communicated over a video call, watching my partner roll his eyes at my suggestion of the next trash TV we should watch. Only sometimes, our screen freezes, the call drops and what would have been goofy banter loses its moment. Glitch-free 5G would solve that problem. Plus, through cutting-edge haptic technology, cross-country hugs and kisses that mimic the sensation of touch could become a reality. Touch bracelets, hug shirts and saucier remote intimacy devices too would get a face-lift.

Afar But Together

There’s quite a bit you can already do together as a remote couple. Netflix Party, a rage among friends during the lockdown, only needs a Google Chrome extension, some popcorn . . . and trusty internet. A friend took his date to a virtual Travis Scott concert via the in-game entertainment system in video game Fortnite. You can opt to idle as virtual avatars in the meadows of Nintendo’s Animal Crossing: New Horizons, or if the mood strikes, throw a seaside wedding. With 5G-enabled VR helmets and suits, the lines between same-city relationships and long-distance ones will continue to blur. For now though, one rogue router can upend your date night plans.

Mingling Singles

Virtual dating games, already popular, are online landscapes where one can simulate romance with 3D avatars or tailor-made characters. With AR, the experience is going to be more immersive. And 5G will likely leave its imprint on more traditional dating apps like Bumble and Tinder as well — perhaps in the form of flirty filters on in-app video calls or through 3D avatars that let you express your personality more effectively than a bio can. AR can even be used to scan the physical realms you frequent — bars, bookstores, gyms and parks — to find fellow app users who share your interests.

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ENTER, FUTURE

Highway to Heaven

Your driverless car is racing along European highways guided by 5G as you laze in the back seat. Then, as you cross a border, the network provider changes and your signal drops. Your dream vacation turns into a nightmare. This is the scenario that companies and governments are now working to avoid. Mobile device manufacturer Nokia has already tested a 5G-enabled road between its head office in the Finnish district of Kera and a train station less than a mile away. Meanwhile, the European Union is working on creating a seamless cross-border 5G network that will ensure that signals don’t drop when you cross from France into Italy. It’s forking out 47 million euros to set up 5G corridors along the borders between Italy and Austria, Spain and Portugal, Greece and Turkey and in Luxembourg. Read more on OZY.

City of the Future

Yinchuan in northern China is the test lab for a nationwide expansion of 5G-enabled governance. Imagine paying for your bus ticket by having a camera scan your face. With 6,400 5G base stations around the city, Yinchuan is perfectly set up with sensors and CCTV cameras to constantly monitor and feed information to the city’s municipal, law enforcement, traffic control and other departments. Smart street lighting, electric vehicle charging stations and smooth trash collection are just some of the ways our lives will change when the rest of the world adopts this approach. But be warned: Cities like Yinchuan are also ideal for governments that want to monitor your every step. Like most tech, 5G can cut both ways.

Next Up, 6G

Have you fancied dabbling in 3D floating images, the way Tony Stark manipulates the holographic blueprint of his Iron Man suit? 6G — yes, that which comes after 5G — could make those sci-fi dreams come true by the start of the next decade. What 5G does for individual driverless cars, 6G could do for an entire city, effectively connecting millions of vehicles to make sure they each can travel on the fastest and safest route possible. And oh, you could download 300 movies per second. In June, the U.S. and U.K. made the joint development of 6G technology a part of their updated Atlantic Charter. But remember, there’s an entire generation to bridge first. “What network operators predict today might be thematically right, but how services unfold in reality is a different question,” says UC Berkeley’s Jon Metzler.

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