The Impact of 5G

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Tugdual Grall, technical evangelist at Converged Data Platform firm MapR, says that cloud and analytics are key to finding success with 5G and IoT. He explains all here.

The billions of smartphone and broadband users today already generate massive quantities of data. From connected homeware, to robotics, to internet-connected devices in roads and buildings, the capabilities and potential use cases for the IoT are in many ways, limited only by our imagination for what is possible. But in a few short years when tens of billions of devices are connected over 5G networks, our imaginations will really be tested to their creative limits.

An IoT that’s 5G ready

The IoT is already a part of everyday life for more people than might expect it to be, with 13 billion connected devices in use today. Gartner defines IoT as ‘the network of physical objects that contain embedded technology to communicate and sense or interact with their internal states or the external environment.’ Gartner forecast that the number of connected things in use worldwide will reach 20.8 billion by 2020, with 5.5 million new devices set to connect every day in 2016 alone.

To date, much of the data generated by the IoT – beyond smartphones if you count them as a connected device – has predominantly come from sensors and M2M (machine to machine) communications. They have been designed for scale, low power, energy efficiency, and the ability to support a massive number of devices. But when 5G lands, you can expect that not only will the quantity of sensory data explode, but so too will much larger datasets, transmitted and arriving at the target destination in the blink of an eye.

5G describes the next generation of wireless networks, which are expected to reach speeds at least ten times faster than current LTE – that’s 4G –with ultra-low latency.

The most optimistic tech evangelists predict that 5G could be in place as early as 2018, with the first networks expected to be commercially available around 2020 and many firms are already showcasing prototypes and demos of its capabilities. Ericsson, for example, showcased a number of new 5G related technologies at Mobile World Congress in February.

During a live demo, Ericsson 5G radio prototypes hit more than 10 Gbps peak throughput, while supporting beamforming and beam tracking features. The Ericsson field trials demonstrate that 5G will impact the entire mobile network and associated eco-system, from devices and into the cloud.

Volume and velocity of big data

While Big Data has been a much talked about concept for some time, we haven’t seen anything like the volumes of data that the Internet of Things will produce over the next few years. The volume and velocity of data being transmitted in the near future potentially limitless, while the constraints on collecting and moving it around the world are fast disappearing. The question, then, is whether all of this data can be gathered, stored, and then analysed in real time to maximise the value of it? The 5G powered IoT obviously presents a number of opportunities for companies, but it also presents plenty of challenges to the IT department, who need to gear the organisation’s infrastructure up for the increased volume, variety, velocity and veracity of data being created. If organisations are to make best use of their new data streams, then key will be the systems in place to manage data ingestion.

The question of ingestion

Ingestion will be crucial to harnessing the full potential of IoT over 5G. The ingestion of data is the process of obtaining, importing, and processing data for later – or more pertinently, immediate – use or storage in a database. Ingestion should ideally be done in real time, using a distributed messaging layer. Organisations will look to deploy solutions that can easily capture any type of data and move it between various server and software components. This will ensure the data can be accessed, sliced and diced in any number of different ways – from being stored for later analysis, to being filtered for real time analytics, providing the user with the insight necessary to take immediate action.

Once you have the data in the system and it is processed, it becomes possible to perform rich analytics. SQL is still the most used language for analytics, mostly because it is a well-known and powerful language, but also because it is compliant with the analytics and reporting tools used by the vast majority of business users and application developers.

5G is more than just 4G, that’s quicker; it will become the backbone of the digital society and economy. It could potentially provide a massively compressed telecommunications infrastructure which integrates processing, storage, and networking into the same system. However without organisations making use of the cloud and big data, the benefit of IoT and 5G is limited to speed and capacity; its true potential will never be realised.