More Than Faster Phones: The Life-Changing Potential of 5G Technology

More Than Faster Phones: The Life-Changing Potential of 5G Technology
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In 1969, it was space travel. Today, the world’s most tech-savvy nations are in a race for 5G – networks that operate 100 times more quickly than today’s cellular networks.

So what’s behind this competition to achieve 5G?

First, buffering and lag will be a thing of the past, reducing the download time of a two-hour movie – which now requires six minutes – to only 3.6 seconds. But the impacts of 5G are more far-reaching than faster download speeds on our mobile devices. 5G allows for the lighting-speed transmission of massive amounts of data, making the potential applications of this technology life-changing.

Imagine the future of health care in a world of seamless connectivity. Doctors can remotely diagnose symptoms in real time – a potentially life-saving development for people who physically can’t get to a doctor’s office. With robotic-assisted laser surgery, doctors can perform complex operations with greater precision on patients on the other side of the world. Medical students can virtually tour the inside of the human body.

5G health care innovations are already making their way into the marketplace, from electronic sensors that monitor your sun exposure to trackers that stick to your clothes and provide up-to-the-minute health assessments.

But this is just the beginning.

Full-scale adoption of 5G will make smart cities a reality. If our current 4G connectivity made WAZE, Uber and smart parking possible, imagine the capabilities of a faster network.

The science behind smart cities lies in the Internet of Things (IoT) – the connection of all devices through the internet – allowing sensors to connect with one other across a city to collect and relay data, leading to more efficient public services. In a smart city, self-driving vehicles, energy grids, transportation networks and water systems will all be controlled in the cloud, allowing readily available data to be quickly shared. Streetlights will dim when no pedestrians or vehicles are present. Connected-car data will help improve traffic and road conditions.

If cities will be smart, homes will be even smarter. Smart weather stations can turn on your lights when it starts to rain or alert you when your back patio gets too hot for your dog. Ikea has designed a ‘Future Kitchen’ concept that will help home chefs prep meals, come up with recipes and reduce waste. Smart home technology is for pets, too. Researcher Con Slobodchikoff from Northern Arizona University is developing a pet translator that could eventually translate animal noises into human words.

The economic impact of a 5G world will be immense. A 2017 Accenture study estimates that U.S. telecom operators could invest roughly $275 billion over seven years in 5G, creating three million new jobs. Many public figures, including former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and current Chairman Ajit Pai, have been vocalabout the importance of 5G and recognize this is a global race. We need to make 5G a national priority if we want to maximize the benefits of this new technology here in the U.S.

The introduction of smartphones just a decade ago drastically changed the way we work, communicate and entertain ourselves. But our phones may be the least interesting thing about 5G. 5G technology holds the key to a smarter, more efficient – and more connected – world.

Gary Shapiro is president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association (CTA)™, the U.S. trade association representing more than 2,200 consumer technology companies, and author of the New York Times best-selling books, Ninja Innovation: The Ten Killer Strategies of the World's Most Successful Businesses and The Comeback: How Innovation Will Restore the American Dream. His views are his own. Connect with him on Twitter: @GaryShapiro

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