The adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT) is growing rapidly across all industries, with Gartner forecasting that the number of IoT devices globally will reach 20.4 billion by 2020. 5G will expand the already pivotal role of cellular connectivity in such deployments, and so we take a look at what the advent of 5G is likely to mean for this growing network of connected “Things”.
What are the capabilities of 5G, and how will these benefit the IoT?
5G network speeds are estimated to be as high as 10-20Gbps, allowing the rapid transmission of vast amounts of data between connected IoT devices, and powering applications that demand real-time connections. Ideal for critical or bandwidth-hungry applications, 5G will enable an even broader array of IoT capabilities and, combined, 5G and IoT will be able to deliver connected applications beyond today’s capacity, for example advanced virtual reality and artificial intelligence.
Working in conjunction with increased speed, another key benefit of 5G will be lower latency (the time it takes between the request for data and its arrival), and increased reliability. Targeted to have less than 1 millisecond latency, 5G will enable mission-critical IoT applications that require maximum responsiveness and reliability – this could range from industrial automation through to connected/driverless vehicles and remote healthcare.
Super-fast download speeds and low latency are not necessary for all IoT applications though, and 5G will also support those with low power consumption and high energy efficiency requirements, such as smart cities. NB-IoT and LTE-M networks serve this purpose today, providing reliable, cost-effective and pervasive connectivity, and they will continue to play a vital role in the future of 5G.
These multiple factors, combined with 5G’s high connection density, will allow IoT deployments to expand in scope and operate with greater efficiency. 5G will further the flexibility and scalability of connections already offered by today’s cellular networks, and will both accelerate the adoption of existing IoT applications as well as pave the way for future technologies.
4G and IoT today, 5G and IoT tomorrow.
While 5G is expected to bring various advancements, it is not necessary to wait for its roll out before implementing cellular IoT solutions. 4G LTE will continue to evolve and will play a major role in 5G systems in both the near and long term, thereby ensuring the value of 4G LTE networking for IoT deployments both now and in the future. Leading manufacturers such as Cradlepoint and Sierra Wireless have already put in place “pathways to 5G” to ensure a smooth transition for customers who want to leverage cellular networking today, while ensuring that their deployments are “future-proofed” for the forthcoming 5G capabilities.