How 5G is helping businesses create new products and services.

For years, the business world has heard about the promise—and in some cases, the hype—of virtual reality (VR), artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), and other technologies. But broad adoption has been delayed by the limits of network connectivity. That’s now changing—thanks to innovations in 5G.

This fifth-generation cellular standard offers the speed, capacity, coverage, and reliability that allow those technologies to unlock new products and services.

Craig Schieber, Director, Strategy & Planning, Advanced & Emerging Technologies at T-Mobile, works with various companies across industries. “They all tell me the same thing—that they struggle with connectivity,” says Schieber. But 5G helps solve that struggle. “They love being able to have the capacity of 5G.”

Across numerous customer engagements as well as partnerships like the 5G Open Innovation Lab, we at T-Mobile work with companies to identify and capitalize on the ways that faster, more reliable cellular services can unearth new revenue opportunities, cut costs, and make for more loyal customers.

The following are a few of the ways that enterprises can harness 5G to develop new products, services, and business models.

Reimagining the factory floor and what’s built there.

Manufacturing is one sector where 5G has demonstrated material impacts. Often this is the result of two key concepts coming together. One is edge computing, which brings processing power closer to where data is created. The other is 5G private networks, where the 5G network core, 5G radio access network, and other infrastructure are deployed inside a building, manufacturing plant, or on a campus to meet the specific needs of that environment.

Integrating edge computing and 5G private networks makes for dedicated, high-speed, and low-latency connectivity that can support near-real-time data transmission and computation—to inform faster insights and autonomous decision-making. Two use cases that benefit from these capabilities are production-line robots that handle sequential and highly-precise tasks, as well as autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) that transport raw materials, sort finished products, and handle other key tasks throughout the manufacturing process. 

A leading beverage maker is exploring ways to monitor every can and bottle it produces by embedding them with inexpensive RFID tags and tracking them with a network of 5G-enabled chip readers.

Making 5G connectivity part of the solution helps support more agile and flexible manufacturing. This could mean the ability to trial a batch of new products quickly and calibrate as needed, while still meeting scheduled demand for existing offerings.

For instance, a leading beverage maker is exploring ways to monitor every can and bottle it produces by embedding them with inexpensive RFID tags and tracking them with a network of 5G-enabled chip readers. The company wants to understand the journeys its billions of containers make, from how long containers sit on store shelves to how and where containers are disposed of.

The ability to account for every container can provide a valuable view into the beverage maker’s product lifecycle, unlocking countless insights that can help the company improve its operations. Giving customers an incentive to recycle—potentially through a mix of hyper-targeted marketing and sales strategies that showcase customers’ positive impact on environmental sustainability and reward them for it—could lead to other virtuous outcomes for people and the planet.

Next-generation healthcare inside and outside hospital walls.

It’s said that in today’s digital world every organization needs to act like a technology company. That’s certainly true for hospitals and medical suppliers. Augmented reality, VR, AI, and the proliferation of sensor-based devices—the Internet of Medical Things—show growing potential to revolutionize the medical field.

“5G is helping with all of the new sensor data that hospitals are trying to capture,” says Craig Schieber. “Wherever the patient goes, you have the connectivity required to provide real-time updates to medical personnel.”

5G coverage paired with AI-enabled camera and analytics systems can capture a 3D image of a patient’s body via virtual consultation. This can allow physicians in one area to remotely diagnose patients far away, giving rural communities remote access to specialists.

Advanced connectivity over private 5G networks in hospitals can allow doctors and nurses to share data from tablets and input devices on carts, cutting down on delays that would happen if they had to login from an office computer. Meanwhile, medical device suppliers are working on connected products like “smart beds” that monitor a patient’s vital signs via embedded sensors that could run on the same 5G network. Such capabilities can bolster patient care while easing pressure on busy and understaffed hospital personnel.

Also, the geographic coverage and low latency of public 5G networks can extend quality care to more people, especially in rural and traditionally underserved populations. 5G coverage paired with AI-enabled camera and analytics systems can capture a 3D image of a patient’s body via virtual consultation. This can allow physicians in one area to remotely diagnose patients far away, giving rural communities remote access to specialists without having to travel hours to and from big cities.

Leveraging XR to unlock new ways of doing business.

Businesses everywhere face shortages of skilled workers. Hands-on training and guidance is a must in many industries, including automotive, airlines, and manufacturing. Traditionally, this kind of training has taken place under the watchful eye of an instructor, who either leads students in a classroom or physically stands next to new workers to inspect and advise on the job.

On the other hand, immersive training via extended reality (XR) helps new workers develop the hands-on skills they need faster, without the need for in-person instruction and with better retention rates than reading printed manuals or online training. 

Now, using our nationwide 5G network, startups like VictoryXR, Taqtile, and other XR platforms offer this kind of immersive training in ways that could be applied to many industries. In business settings, the returns on investment can include fewer mistakes, less downtime, reduced employee attrition, and lower overall costs. One company reported an 80 percent reduction in training time by using XR glasses.

Immersive training is also being employed in new ways in higher education. Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee—in collaboration with T-Mobile, HTC VIVE, and VictoryXR—has created a first-of-its-kind, interactive cadaver lab, where pre-med and biology students can study the skeletal and muscular structures of the human body. Building a traditional cadaver lab was too costly and could only serve students in proximity to campus. But thanks to XR solutions powered by 5G, Fisk University can now offer more students in more places the opportunity to further their education and career paths, while gaining a new revenue stream that could be applied across fields of study.

The foundation to build what’s next.

“The outlook is bright” for enterprise adoption of emerging technologies over the next three years, according to a report, “Reimagining Industry Futures Study 2022,” by professional services firm EY.

A T-Mobile for Business survey of IT and network decision-makers whose companies are adopting 5G underscores that optimistic assessment. Our survey found that nearly half of respondents—48 percent—were using 5G for AI initiatives, and 60 percent planned to do so within the next 12 months. 26 percent were using 5G for AR use cases, with 39 percent were planning to do the same within 12 months. With VR, 18 percent were using 5G, and 31 percent had plans to do likewise over the next year. 

Still, many businesses are just getting started with the possibilities for 5G-enabled innovation. For example, only 8 percent of respondents to our survey indicated that 5G has already helped their organizations create new products or services. That’s partly because 5G is so new. But it also suggests there will be many future opportunities for new development and competitive differentiation.

In the same way businesses in the early 2000s couldn’t have predicted the many ways smartphones would create global markets and ever-evolving partnerships, 5G connectivity is setting the stage for innovators to deliver the next generation of killer apps and experiences. 

2022 5G Innovation Study: Understanding adoption & opportunities.

Read the latest data on how business leaders are leveraging 5G to optimize their business operations. The insights in this report will open opportunities to make your customers and employees happier and help you innovate new products.

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