A study by IHS Markit in November 2019 estimates that 5G will pump $13.2 trillion into the global economy by 2035 while supporting 22.3 million jobs. But which industries will benefit the most from this revolutionary technology?
Before we answer that, we should know what 5G is. It is simply the fifth-generation standard of cellular data, which allows devices like your iPhone to connect to the internet and the telephone network wirelessly. That is achieved through an interconnected system of cell towers that emit radio waves. Five factors make it different from all the previous G’s and ultimately game-changing:
- 5G will increase data-transfer speeds 100-fold so that devices can share data faster than ever.
- 5G will lead to ultra-low latency (1 millisecond) so the time between data being sent and data being received will be negligible.
- 5G offers higher bandwidth with 1,000 times greater data capacity, meaning a larger number of simultaneous users can send and receive data.
- 5G can facilitate the Internet of Things (IoT) where various mechanical and digital devices can interact with each other by transmitting data.
- 5G will make the use of artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and various other technologies a part of our daily lives.
Here are five industries that will be revolutionised by 5G:
5G makes remote surgery an increasingly viable option. Doctors using virtual reality and haptic feedback gloves will be able to perform surgery via robots, potentially thousands of miles away. The network will enable the real-time transmission of visual and physical stimuli from a robot to a surgeon. Currently, robotic surgeons cost millions of dollars per unit with yearly maintenance contracts in the hundreds of thousands. Although this may initially translate to higher healthcare costs, with increased demand and subsequent increase in supply, the price of robotic surgery will gradually decrease. However, robotic surgeries are minimally invasive, thereby leading to a reduced chance of infection and pain. This means that patients can recover faster and limit their hospital stay, thus lowering healthcare costs further.
5G is predicted to launch the ‘fourth industrial revolution’ with the advent of smart factories. IoT devices and greater bandwidth would allow thousands of machines from across the production line to communicate with each other, which, combined with machine learning, can quickly process data to optimise output. New data can also be fed into the network to create flexible manufacturing lines in response to consumer demands. A 2016 study conducted by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology indicates that smart factories would save manufacturers $57.4 billion annually. However, it also says that small and medium-sized companies may face significant barriers due to the high cost of implementation, that might require some public spending and government subsidies.
Sensors in cars and road infrastructure will use 5G for a new era of fully autonomous vehicles. Data will be shared more rapidly, reliably and on a mass scale to create a seamless network of vehicles that can respond to environmental information quickly, while significantly reducing the risk of accidents and decreasing traffic on the road. W. David Montgomery, a former senior fellow at Resources For The Future even said that eliminating accidents alone would lead to hundreds of billions of dollars per year that could be saved. Furthermore, 5G-enabled autonomous vehicles can process data about their fuel-consumption to become more efficient, thus reducing energy costs.
5G will facilitate efficient communication between stores and their supply chains. IoT-embedded sensors in shelves will have a real-time view of stocks. Once an item is low, the system can alert the rest of the supply chain to initiate shipments and deliveries. The popularity of products can also be gauged to ensure that fast-selling items are always in stock. Better communication between retailers and manufacturers will see a reduction in waste products. Fewer materials will need to be sourced, meaning more considerable financial savings and environmental conservation.
Additionally, customers can gain a more personalised shopping experience. For example, tags on supermarket items could interact with apps on smartphones and give discounts based on loyalty and previous purchase patterns. Better enhanced customer experiences may continuously stimulate consumer spending in stores.
5G’s low latency will pave the way for a very smooth cloud-based gaming experience. Players will no longer need to download games but be able to play them by direct streaming from the cloud. Ultimately, high-quality premium games, previously exclusive to consoles, will likely become available to smartphone users, resulting in significant gains for the mobile gaming industry. Certainly, the current 46% market share of the gaming industry will rise in the near future.
Since large amounts of data can be processed remotely and in real-time, 5G data processing will help solve AR’s and VR’s disjointed gaming experience, making these more immersive and popular gaming options. The biggest impact of cloud processing will be a reduction in the consumer’s investment in hardware, making gaming a much cheaper and accessible activity.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of all the industries that 5G will transform. The network also has many negative implications, such as reports of increased radiation from higher frequency radio waves and the impact of 5G enabled robots on employment.
What are your views on the 5G era?