May 17th marks the day in 1865 when the first International Telegraph Convention was signed in Paris; 20 countries met that day to figure out how to handle growing traffic in Morse Code telegraph messages.
The meeting spawned what is now called the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) – the first international standards organization. Little did the founders imagine that 155 years later their organization would be auctioning spectrum licenses for the fifth generation of mobile technology (5G).
They would be certainly impressed with the technology and huge ecosystem that comprise communications today – and, in particular, 5G.
I’ve discussed the importance of 5G before, and how new business models are supporting the transformation of communications service providers (CSPs). But today I think it is important to look at the evolution of other key technologies using 5G capabilities. In particular, the role of artificial intelligence (AI).
5G and AI
While AI is often considered to be cloud-centric, we see AI as being increasingly distributed, as on-device (onsite) learning becomes more common. This will bring benefits like personalization and improved privacy protection as the data will be processed as it is transported, from the device to the user applications, instead of at a central point or device. Today, we’re already enabling a wide range of power-efficient, on-device AI inference use cases (applying knowledge to infer a result) such as CCTV vision and voice recognition.
The advanced architecture of 5G makes it ideal for connecting distributed on-device AI engines and allowing them to be further augmented by the edge cloud — a concept which is call the wireless edge. This processing of AI over 5G can fuel the technology evolution to unlock new possibilities for low-latency services in 5G services or use cases.
Some relevant use cases include:
Connected healthcare solutions can help society’s most vulnerable patients, such as the disabled and elderly, to cope with chronic illnesses. Looking at the situation today where a virus is affecting the quality of health care execution. The reason 5G will become a crucial element is because that connectivity needs to be highly robust and reliable, as well as be available to all patients. In this way, more patients can be cared for with the same amount of people and quality can be improved by digitalization.
Each year, industrial companies misplace assets, including large expensive items such as refrigerated trailers, vehicles or freight pallets. The use of manual tracking and stock-taking processes can also result in operational inefficiencies. By using 5G’s real-time capabilities and AI this will reduce asset losses and improve efficiency. For example, Australian companies could save AU$4.3 billion per year with 5G-enabled asset management, according to a Telstra study.
These are just two of many use cases for 5G today, and the technology is in its infancy. On World Telecommunication and Information Society Day, we can give a nod of thanks to those 20 countries who introduced the standards and laid a path to innovation today.