5G is the next generation of wireless technology. Roughly 10x faster than its predecessor, able to support one million devices per square kilometer at speeds up to 20 Gbps, 5G offers the first viable alternative to wired connections, with the ease of a wireless network.
IoT, or the Internet of Things, means devices for commercial, industrial, enterprise, and individual use come together on the internet cloud. The devices can interact with each other as well as the cloud, to make decisions on the “edge.” Edge computing involves capturing, processing, and analyzing data near where it is created. Your wearable device? That’s edge computing.
The new ecosystem will impact our personal lives, as well as multiple industries. A few industries will be more impacted than others because of the huge opportunity to commercialize these changes. Think manufacturing, healthcare, automotive and Smart Cities. And investments won’t just benefit High Tech companies, but also communities, in terms of jobs, GDP growth and more. Let’s take Smart Cities as an example:
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High Tech was born for 5G
High Tech industries are a major player in this ecosystem in more ways than one. They are the consumers (in manufacturing plants and enterprise environments) as well as the providers (for sensors, IoT platforms). As a major IoT stakeholder throughout the IoT value chain, High Tech companies hold a huge opportunity to orchestrate commercialization.
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Caption: High Tech is a major stake holder in the overall value chain across 5G and IoT.
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Barriers to adoption
If 5G and IoT are so great, why aren’t they being adopted more rapidly? A few reasons:
- It’s a new technology, so there isn’t a dominant design or architecture which is fully deployed.
- Multiple layers of the stack need to come together to commercialize IoT—from sensors and connectivity, to software platforms and end user applications. This causes integration challenges.
- Those who want to provide service, lack the network, and those who can provide the network cannot monetize the service. There is a misalignment of incentives as to who invests, and who reaps the benefits from the value chain. Think of it in the context of 4G deployment, the network was laid out by carriers, but the major beneficiaries were internet companies (Amazon, Facebook, Netflix, Google). The same value capture story holds true for 5G.
5G use cases abound
5G is a widespread standard, with enough infrastructure behind it that it can be scaled. It also has wide-spread adaptability at device and equipment level. This means 5G can fuel a wide variety of use cases because of its following characteristics:
- High speed (entertainment for auto, remote surgeries in healthcare)
- Low latency (mission-critical industrial IoT, autonomous driving, AI controlled robots)
- Massive connection density (digital factories, Smart Cities, wearable devices)
- Low power consumption (Smart Buildings, fleet management)
One of the strongest use cases for IoT lies in the manufacturing plants and digital factories of HT companies themselves. This particular use case requires 5G due to the massive amount of data, devices, and low latency required. Manufacturing and industrial use cases are the closest to commercialization because it’s clear who pays for the IoT ecosystem, and who reaps the benefits (the company itself).
How can High Tech prepare for the IoT revolution?
Let’s look at digital manufacturing, as this area has use cases closest to real-world application. High Tech companies should ask themselves questions in a few areas to prepare:
- Operating Model: What role do you believe your enterprise should play in the value chain? What role do investors believe you should play? Do you have the capabilities in place and the operating model to support your role?
- Partner Model: How are you engaging with your partner ecosystem? How do you know if you have the right partners? Can you move fast to share data/resources with partners to execute on a shared goal? Do the legal/IP protections you have in place enable or hinder this model? Do your internal/external incentives enable you to grow beyond the Proof of Concept stage?
- Business Model: How will your product mix change as 5G becomes more prolific? How will the need for chipsets change? How will electronic connectors develop? Often the answers to these questions are not much further than the factories you operate.
High Tech companies are a natural match for 5G ecosystems. But they must act now to ensure they are helping to develop the ecosystems that will not only bring them commercial success, but also will help the economy during a time of job losses and increased financial pressures. Thinking through the big strategic issues and putting 5G execution plan in place will help ensure your company is shaping the future, rather than being shaped by it.