5G and Edge Computing – A Vision for the Future

Imagine this. After a long day at work, you jump into the back of your driverless car, and give it a voice command to take you home.  The car heads off and deftly inserts itself into the smoothly flowing traffic. You remember that you and a friend agreed to meet on a beach in Fiji right now.  You slip on your VR headset and gloves, and instantly feel the warm salty breeze on your face. Looking down, you watch the turquoise sea lapping at your toes.  You relax at the beach bar and share a cocktail with your friend, finishing your drink just as your car is pulling into your driveway. 

The lights in the house switch on to “evening mode” as the car drops you at your front door. The car then goes to park itself.  The door unlocks as you walk up to it. A delicious smell of cooking wafts through the warmed cosy house toward you. All this without you having to lift a finger.  5G technology and edge computing is facilitating all this streamlined, highly reliable automation.

Your IoT devices will be programmed to jump into action by knowing in real-time where you are. You leave the house or office, and the lights turn off.  You start heading home in your driverless car, and the car will send a real-time signal to your oven to start cooking a delicious meal that will be all ready for you when you get home. A signal sent from the car to the smart house turns on the lights when you arrive.

the future of 5G and edge computing
The Future of 5G and Edge Computing

With the coming of 5G and edge computing, this experience is a very real glimpse into the not-so-distant future.

How Will 5G Technology Change the Way We Live?

Recently, the word 5G has been splashed across the news on a regular basis. Articles about the coming of 5G cellular networks seem to be popping up all over the Internet like mushrooms after a Fall rain.  Why is everyone talking about it? We already have fast network connection with 4G. To our eyes, it makes the transfer of data so fast that it seems almost instantaneous. What makes this new development so special, and what does it mean for our daily lives?

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You can read an in-depth explanation of what 5G technology is and how it works here. Briefly, 5G stands for 5th generation cellular network. Speed, and latency time are two superior features of 5G. They make it stand out from any previously developed mobile telecoms technology. These features are possible because 5G networks use highly directional, super-high-frequency airwaves. Presently, 4G uses lower, less directional radio frequencies. On top of this, 5G antennas send and receive multiple data packets simultaneously. This allows a far higher number of user interactions on the network at one time than was possible before.

5G and edge computing changing our lives
5G and Edge Computing Changing our Lives

Until now the latency time taken between when a query is sent out by a device and when the response comes back has been limited. This is due to the distance the data needed to travel for processing. The 4G network has become fraught with delay as more and more IoT devices are being connected.  There is only so much bandwidth to go around. The coming of strategically placed 5G antennas will change the latency time to as low as 1 millisecond, which will mean, for all intents and purposes, that all interactions with other devices will be in real-time, even if they are on the other side of the country, or theoretically, on the other side of the globe. 

A Game Changer for IoT Technologies

This will be a game changer for the large number of IoT technologies in development. Very complex technologies, such as self-driving cars and trucks, which need infallible and constant data interactions when they are in working mode, will become truly capable of getting people and cargo safely and efficiently to their destination.  City infrastructure will function with an almost unlimited number of IoT devices and systems. They will work securely and reliably together to achieve a flowing efficiency that cannot be replicated with human intervention.  

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Residents will be able to use automated transport, from self-driving buses and cars, to automatically run metro lines and trains, to commute to work in a stress-free way. With 5G, traffic jams will become a relic of the past. There will be a huge increase in capacity of the number of IoT devices that can transmit data simultaneously, allowing automation to enter every domain of life. In addition, large amounts of energy will be saved by business and homes because of this increased connectedness. IoT devices functioning with real-time data processing will make buildings more energy efficient, and cost-effective, automatically turning off lights, heating, or air conditioning in areas where it is not needed. This action will save money, but most importantly, the impact that humans are having on the changing climate will be mitigated.

Where Does Edge Computing Come Into the Picture?

Right now, we live in an extremely centralized world, where all data is first sent to the cloud to be processed before being sent on.  For self-driving vehicles to work reliably, there can be no latency between query and processing time.  If the car records a red traffic light in front of it, it must know what to do immediately. There is no time for the data to be sent to a central processing area.

5G and edge computing remaking Smart homes systems
5G and Edge Computing Remaking Smart Homes Systems

With the advent of sophisticated edge computing on the near horizon, real-world information will be collected and processed far faster than the human brain can. This will be directly due to the extremely fast 5G network, coupled with localized data centers.  Learning will occur centrally in the cloud, so there will still be a need for a cloud system, but the centrally processed data will be sent out to train localized centers equipped with machine learning.  The trained local centers will keep this information and will be very agile, allowing them to be closer to “the action” and process local data incredibly quickly.  This is essential for a self-driving car that needs critical safety decisions made in real-time.

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What Does This Mean for Us?

The connected car will become an intrinsic part of our connected smart home system.  Our smart home will get real-time data about where we are from our car position and trajectory.  It will use collated data and machine learning to follow the immediate information sent out by the car to know the perfect timing to turn on our lights or heating, to start cooking our dinner, or even when to feed the cat.

We have not been in such a period since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution over a Century ago. Constant IoT connectedness thanks to the technologies of 5G and edge computing will change our daily lives in ways we cannot yet completely visualize. The future of complete automation is tantalizingly within our grasp. Are you ready for it?

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