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Cost, capacity, growth
"Today machine-to-machine can be expensive," says David
Michelson, professor of electrical and computer engineering at UBC. "With 5G and narrow band IoT we may have low
power, low cost centres that can monitor everything and
achieve incredible operational efficiencies."
He offers the example of hundreds of air sensors at the Argon Lab in Chicago and mentions far flung additional applications involving the vehicle-to-grid communications,
lumber industry robotics, truck platooning, smart energy
meters and telesurgery at hospitals. "Health, safety, security and the environment will all benefit greatly," he says "And
governments are likely to be early adopters."
Before even considering the needs of these exciting new or
more feasible applications, Michelson notes that the world
could expand from 5 billion devices in 2017 to 100 billion
within just a few years. In a sense 5G can't get here fast
enough to help us grapple with existing worldwide datacrunching demand for all our mainstream apps.
Schulzrinne concurs with the notion that 5G could be a
boon, if the economics work, for indoor industrial robots
that depend on reliable performance and emergency safety
features. But he questions what happens when productioncritical service goes down, and isn't certain what business
models and rollout plans make the most sense for 5G. "I've
just returned from a 5G summit where a variety of potential
market verticals were being discussed. I'm not sure what
the carrier strategy will be."
Remote coverage and the best applications
"The hype is that you will have unlimited internet everywhere,
but what people don't realize is that millimetre waves travel
shorter distances and may not be rolled out, or even applicable in rural settings for many years," says tech editor and 5G
specialist Chris Hoffman. He and others describe agricultural
tech breakthroughs that will benefit greatly from the faster
speed and capacity of 5G when it finally arrives on the farms.
While 5G capacity could enable all manner of clever security advancements, it has recently been associated with
security risk. Huawei, one of the world's largest internet
carriers, has been accused of technological skullduggery,
privacy breaches, and espionage on behalf of the Chinese
"The caution is that 5G is not a panacea and may not be the
right solution for every application, but I do believe it will become a key part of the portfolio of computational possibilities," says Young Ngo, chief technology officer for Survalent
Technology Corporation, a smart grid software developer in
Brampton. "In some cases 4G is all that's needed, but 5G
may help unlock additional potential for 4G and 3G. There's
a price for everything, so it will depend on what you need
and what you are willing to pay for."
Experts suggest there is some truth in the allegations and
also that all of the world's big telcos and, for that matter,
numerous governments, might be equally suspect. The US
seems especially confrontational, while Europe has decided not to single out Huawei, and has responded instead by
tightening security rules for all the big players.
Ngo thinks 5G will be a strong enabler for smart buildings,
smart cities, electric vehicles and behind the meter electrical systems, but thinks on the utility side his aforementioned 3G-4G-5G blend might apply. "Anything you put a
sim card into, including a car, to me, becomes a device, and
could therefore enjoy benefits from 5G."
While some observers have claimed that autonomous vehicles will never reach their full data transfer and safe operation potential without the capacity and reduced latency
of 5G wireless, there are dissenting voices.
When Paul finally arrived at the restaurant, his girlfriend Mitsou
was already at the table fiddling with her tablet. "What kind of
experience should we order for later?" she asked absently.
HUAWEI and security
Henning Schulzrinne, former chief technology officer of the
Federal Communications Commission and Columbia University professor, says that 5G uses short range signals and
is years from having the kind of widespread geographic coverage that could make it effective for autonomous vehicles.
"It's kind of a chicken and egg situation. Cars that use 5G
might be useless until all the other cars do the same, and
until adequate infrastructure is in place." But he also notes,
on the other hand, that "the transmitter for the car is only
about $50 and will be inexpensive to operate, so they should
probably install it simply as a standard feature."
"No, no, no, I've had enough," said Paul. "No more fake travel,
fake smiles or fake therapy, I need some good old-fashioned
tech free help. Can you just massage my neck right here? I
think I pulled something when I was hang gliding."
This article was originally featured in the May/
June 2019 issue of The Ontario Technologist.
Reprinted with permission from OACETT.
TECHNOLOGY ALBERTA | SUMMER 2019 | 9
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