As many access 4g networks for the first time, it begs the question, at least to the less tech savvy of smartphone users, why are we already focusing on the development of 5g networks? The answer is that 4g simply will not cope with the rapidly increasing proliferation of connected devices that is the Internet of Things.
From topping up a fridge with milk to instantly finding an available seat on a train, the Internet of Things involves devices gathering data from multiple locations and turning this data in to useable information. With the exponential growth of smartphone usage (50 to 100 billion devices are expected to be connected to the internet by 2020) and the ever increasing number of applications available to manage lifestyles, there is a draw on data capacity like never before.
Applications driven by the Internet of Things have had an increasingly life-changing impact on our daily lives, and if we lose connectivity to the internet while using such applications the consequences can be severe. For instance, faultless reliability and continuity of network data delivered to driverless cars is essential: should a break in communication occur, lives could potentially be in danger. This is also true for healthcare services that use connected technology to monitor critically ill patients.
The UK led the way in Europe in 2014, accounting for 42% of all Fintech investment in the region, with London easily cementing its reputation as the European FinTech hub. This thriving community and these rapid investments are set to change the way we bank, access our finances and manage payments – and all of these technology advancements make demands on network capacity.
Sustaining the flow of data
The need to deliver these services with unprecedented speed, while remaining energy-efficient and cost-effective, presents sustainability problems for 4g networks even before they have been fully established. The reliability needed to manage networks, without latency, is becoming increasingly paramount.
Driving the need for network development is the growth in bandwidth consumption by each customer. Not only are there more people using smartphones, but each of these people are connecting with more devices. I have five, with each member of my household, from the age of six upwards(!), having at least two devices each. While a data bundle of up to 20GB is more than adequate for the majority of consumers today, the cost of additional data required to run their ‘Internet of Things’ means providers need to find ways to make the scaling of data download packages commercially viable. Who picks up the bill for the development of these services is also up for debate. Will the user be required to foot the bill through higher purchase costs, or will the value of data gathered by app providers be enough to cover the cost of devices – and will customers agree to make that trade?
Building networks to deliver the future
Developing useful applications requires businesses from different sectors to collaborate together in unprecedented ways. From the core technology and data to streamlining services and manufacturing components that manage the flow of information, forging links across industries is essential if we are to achieve sustainable delivery to make services accessible to the mass market. Innovate UK have launched the HyperCatCity initiative to encourage just this. As bankers, this means moving out of our comfort zone and getting more heavily involved in the design of networks to ensure they deliver the perfect user experience.
5g developers promise us a fundamental restructure of how the network operates, integrating mobile coverage with WiFi and home base stations. The framework is set to adopt a scalable approach to the provisioning of connectivity, which will develop in line with usage to deliver data needs for the significant future. This catalyst presents us with boundless opportunity to develop systems and processes to change how, where and when we deliver services to our customers. Connection speed and reliability are as important as the apps and gadgets themselves – without them, true mass adoption of the Internet of Things in our everyday lives would be impossible.