Trendwatch: What is 5G and what does it mean for my future?

By Engine Room Posted 2yr(s) ago Reading Time: A few minutes

You’ve probably have heard a lot of chatter around 5G lately – from telco competition to 5G mobiles and what it means for a smart nation, and even the absurd rumour that 5G caused the coronavirus (completely untrue, btw!).

But what is 5G really? What does it mean for the future of technology and engineering? 

Let us break down 5G and what it means for you.  

A new generation

5G is the fifth generation of wireless networking technology and builds upon the capabilities of 4G. It comes with the promise of speeds of around 1 GB per second – that’s fast enough to download 4K high-definition movie in about 3 seconds!

Another big deal about 5G is its lower latency, which means less delay in the process of transferring data. If you find that your Netflix app still buffers even on a high bandwidth internet, it’s probably a latency issue and could very well be a thing of the past with 5G.

Ultra-fast speeds + low latency = incredibly enhanced connectivity.

Sounds amazing? Can’t wait? Well, neither can we! Singapore is expected to have 5G coverage across at least half the island by the end of 2022. The government has also committed a whopping S$40 million to build a holistic 5G ecosystem to support tech trials and R&D testbeds.

For now, as we eagerly await the arrival of 5G, here are some things to look forward to.

1. A supercharged Internet of Things (IoT)


If you were wowed by Black Panther’s depiction of the futuristic Wakanda, or geeked out over Kimoyo beads, holographic video messages, remotely piloted cars or sustainable public transport – we’re closer to that reality than you think. These future technologies all rely on a seamless, ultra-reliable connection to exist.

By end of this year, 5G is expected to support 50 billion connected devices and enable access to 44 zettabytes (ZB) of data globally, way beyond anything that current 4G networks can currently handle.

IoT is critical to smart cities. With 5G, cities can install connected devices and sensors throughout communities to enable smart traffic signals, more effective health and safety inspections, or even show real-time information to citizens on when to expect garbage truck cleaners. 

2. Smart factories


Automation on factory floors are set to get a lot more sophisticated. 5G will enhance connectivity and IT integration in smart factories to make manufacturing super-efficient – not only will cheaper, better robots be made, but they will be able to move around plants without being restricted to a wired route. 

While A.I. is already being used to address repetitive, mundane tasks in factories, it eventually can be used to predict supply chain issues and assess production opportunities, while engineers and technicians can continue to focus on important work higher up the value chain.  

It’s time to think of a name for your J.A.R.V.I.S. because designing like Tony Stark may happen sooner than you think. 

3. Transformative healthcare


New breakthroughs in healthcare inventions, devices and ways of working have never looked more apparent, from robotics-assisted surgery to always-on care. Now more than ever, emergency services and medical monitoring need high-reliability networks to exchange real-time data for 24/7, always-on care.

That Apple watch or Fitbit that you wear daily? They could be crucial to your health in the future as such wearable devices can transmit vital data to doctors instantly. Patients can be monitored remotely with advanced medical devices that are connected to IoT. 

Much like factory floor robots, advanced medical robots are expected to surge in demand, enabled by 5G’s connectivity. The next surgery performed by a doctor could be assisted by a Westworld-esque bionic arm, made possible by biomedical engineers equipped to support 5G innovations of the future.  

4. Truly autonomous vehicles


Think a sleek, self-driving car that can rev and move instantly on voice command, like that classic getaway Batmobile scene, is a childhood dream? It could very well soon be a reality with 5G.

Autonomous vehicles require hundreds of sensors that need technology beyond existing 4G networks to process huge volumes of data. This helps mimic the timing of human reflexes, and more. 5G will help self-driving cars to instantly recognise signals, voice commands, create accurate maps and safely change lanes, as well as communicate wirelessly to each other about traffic and weather conditions.

Already, world-leading semiconductor companies like Intel and Qualcomm are investing heavily in new, innovative chips to turn autonomous vehicles into mobile data centres.  

5. VR, AR and MR, finally unleashed


Imagine being able to manufacture virtually, Ready Player One style. You could ‘visit’ a remote plant or offshore oil and gas refinery, without being there physically, or test car prototypes in life-like, simulated conditions.

AR, VR and MR technologies have been slow to take off due to the lack of reliable connectivity. Currently, high-quality VR headsets require powerful PCs to run, which means the experiences are confined to restricted spaces.

5G could finally break the limitations of such tech by enabling the wireless streaming of these experiences, through mobile receptions in headsets and with rendering done in the cloud. 

Your future

There is a growing demand for engineers and technicians who are ready to take on the many opportunities that 5G will unlock. Students just like yourself are uniquely prepared to fill these roles – are you ready to change how we live in the future?

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