Views of the 5G future: 5 is more than just a number

“Imagine tracking the spread of diseases, or tracking epidemics, or emergency response, or fire evacuations, or tracking the spread of a fire in California … that Internet of Things can only be enabled by the next generation of wireless connectivity.”

Andrea Goldsmith, Founding Director of the Wireless Systems Lab at Stanford University

These views of tomorrow are based on conversations with industry leaders at the forefront of creating the 5G future, as shared in iHeartRadio’s This Time Tomorrow podcast sponsored by T-Mobile for Business.

View 1: The promise of true connection

The delivery of 5G connectivity promises new opportunities for true mobility, enabling industries to build a whole new future on top of cellular networks. And a big part of that is the increasing data from 5G connected devices. Taking that data and using it with emerging technologies such as AI and IoT shows a future where we can extract value and efficiencies that were previously impossible.

To explore this future, there’s no one better to talk to than Andrea Goldsmith, founding director of the Wireless Systems Lab at Stanford University. For Goldsmith, engineering is a way to improve people's lives through technology. With 5G, she believes the promise is really about collecting more data that can provide valuable information, and in turn guiding decisions and intelligence in all sorts of interesting areas that can improve our lives and the systems that we live in. With more data, Goldsmith says, “You could imagine tracking the spread of diseases, or tracking epidemics, or emergency response, or fire evacuations, or tracking the spread of a fire in California.”

But collecting and processing much more data from our environment could be helpful on an ongoing basis, not just in times of crisis. Very low power sensors in everyday items or even inside our bodies could be applied in important ways. Imagine a smart city where the garbage trucks only come and collect the garbage when the trash can is full or when it's out in the street, rather than every Wednesday. Then imagine that city having smart infrastructure surveillance to inform officials of potholes, construction zones, or other delays to further streamline operations, or better yet, minimize traffic for everyone. It’s these kinds of possibilities that get pioneers like Andrea Goldsmith really excited. 

View 2: 5G to bridge the technological divide

An increasingly connected future is exciting, but the ethics of the technologies used to get there are just as important. More than ever, entrepreneurs and technologists are thinking about the ways technologies such as AI and 5G can be used to better humanity and prevent a deepening technological divide between the haves and have-nots.

One person leading this discussion is Flynn Coleman, an international human rights lawyer, expert on digital ethics, and author of A Human Algorithm, which explores how we can build applications that better reflect and care for human life. Coleman suggests that “when thinking about deploying 5G, it’s important we focus on making sure we are not racing towards a future for the few, but thoughtfully building for the many.”

Because of the isolated, often competitive nature of technology development, it can be difficult to foresee all of the consequences of new technologies. No one could have imagined Facebook, Uber, or Venmo when we unwrapped our first flip phones. Given dramatic breakthroughs during previous generations of wireless, it’s an easy prediction that we are again on the precipice of extraordinary innovation and change, especially when we add in advancements in AI and other emerging technologies. For Coleman, he’s enthusiastic because he’s seeing future leaders—including his students—focusing on creating businesses that aren’t just for profit, but also work toward environmental sustainability, human rights, and social justice. 

View 3: 5G at the edge

The businesses tomorrow’s leaders will create depend on other businesses creating the actual 5G hardware. So who is on the forefront of creating this future? One of these companies is Qualcomm, which is investing heavily in 5G because of its relation to another future promise: edge computing.

Durga Malladi, senior vice president and general manager for 4G and 5G technologies at Qualcomm, considers edge computing a massive sea change for multiple industries. In his eyes, Qualcomm’s position is to build the toolkit that powers this change. And it’s not just about things like smarter connected cars and virtual reality—things like agriculture and connecting rural towns are a huge priority for Qualcomm, which will help make the benefits of 5G and related technologies more equitable for people everywhere.

“The ability to bring hundreds-of-megabits-per-second connectivity to rural households, to city halls, and communities out in the rural areas is very promising,” says Malladi. “It wasn't something that was easily possible with 4G or 3G before, but with 5G, we have the technology.” 

Want to hear more about the connected future of 5G? Listen to “5 Is More than Just a Number,” part of iHeartRadio’s This Time Tomorrow podcast sponsored by T-Mobile for Business.

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