One of the most compelling next-generation uses for 5G is what’s called massive sensing. This is where millions, potentially even billions, of sensors could generate data from buildings and electric grids, factories, farm fields, or other infrastructure and locations.
These data-generating environments could be similar to today’s Internet of Things (IoT), but with many more endpoints connected and, potentially, in high-density deployments. For this reason, massive sensing is optimized for inexpensive, low-power devices—such as sensors and RFID tags—that may intermittently transmit small amounts of data.
Massive sensing is often associated with the next phase of advanced industry, called Industry 4.0. In these settings, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and cloud and edge technologies are used together to modernize manufacturing processes and distribution.
Other potential massive sensing use cases include fleet and asset management, inventory optimization, health monitoring, wearable connectivity, and control of “smart” buildings and cities. “We have seen a lot of interest from the business owners we’re talking to,” says Durga Satapathy, Director of Advanced & Emerging Technologies, with T-Mobile.
The concept of end-point density is key to understanding and appreciating the power of massive sensing. For example, a few thousand vehicles in a distribution center may not necessarily meet the strict definition of massive sensing. But consider the multiplier effect if each truck has hundreds of containers, every container has a dozen boxes, and each box is packed with individual items—all of which are tagged for inventory and supply-chain tracking.
“That’s when you hit the tipping point [of massive sensing],” adds Satapathy.