Here’s How 5G Might Make Work More Creative and Meaningful

Harnessing the power of AR, VR and The Tactile Internet

Today, exponential technologies and disruptive innovations are ushering in a world of accelerating change. Every day, old industries are being destroyed and new ones are born. As a result, the nature of work is drastically changing, to say the least. We’re at the cusp of what experts call The Fourth Industrial Revolution. This revolution hinges on 5G Technology. 5G will not only power our economy but also transform our daily lives and the consumer experience.

Simply put, 5G stands for the fifth generation of mobile networks. We can speculate about its implications, but the changes induced by 5G will be exponential, making it difficult for us to precisely describe what 5G is or what it entails.

Currently, the mobile data that we utilize runs on 4G LTE networks. Given the speed with which we can access vast amounts of data, we may think that 4G networks are fast and agile; but next-generation 5G services will accelerate current data connections by10, or even 100 times. 5G is not just an incremental upgrade from 4G, it represents a significant leap forward.

To put it succinctly, 5G brings three things to the table:

1. Greater speed: 5G speeds are going to feel instantaneous. We will be able to transfer data from object to object at all times.

2. Lower latency: Response times will be faster than we can imagine. Apps and services will be delivered to us in no time, and internet lags will be a thing of the past.

3. Unparalleled connectivity: In a 5G world, every single thing will be connected — from your kitchen, to your car, and even to your clothes.

This means that our economy will be hyper-powered and run on the sort of productivity and interconnectedness that we’ve never seen before. As a result, massive industries are going to be disrupted: manufacturing, supply chain, and urban planning are a few examples.

But what are some of the changes that we should most look forward to? Which industries will affect us individually? How will 5G enhance our lives?

Here are some exciting transformations that we can look forward to.

1. Retail, E-Commerce, and The Shopping Experience

By 2024, thanks to 5G, 8 billion people will be online, each with megabit to gigabit connection speeds. That equates to 4.2 billion new digital consumers. E-retail revenues are projected to 4.88 trillion USD by 2021.

For businesses that sell products, like those in retail, having a growing consumer base can be enormously profitable. But more than having a larger consumer base, businesses will be able to leverage the power of 5G networks to completely transform the way that we shop. 5G increases the amount of bandwidth transmitted over wireless, allowing Virtual or Augmented Reality apps to run with little to no latency. In conjunction with the rise of e-commerce, thanks to 5G, the global virtual and augmented reality market is forecast to be worth $80 billion by 2025, and for good reason. Truly interactive remote experiences require ultra-low end-to-end latency, ranging from 40 milliseconds to 300 milliseconds. 5G takes this to a whole other level by offering the potential to bring latency down to one millisecond.

Currently, many of us shop online. We have data-driven technologies making recommendations for what we should shop for next (i.e., what Amazon is going). But Virtual Reality will allow innovative retailers to completely personalize the consumer experience for shoppers.

Businesses will no longer have to invest in retail space. Instead, they’ll invest in things like creating an immersive VR experience, complete with a virtual assistant, and the ability for consumers to virtually try on various outfits. Meanwhile, Augmented Reality will change the home shopping experience. Clothes from top brands could appear in your living room. Shoes and other accessories that you want to try on will be projected onto various parts of your body, making it easier for you to make a shopping decision.

Not only will this dramatically enhance the user experience and make shopping enjoyable and convenient, it will also give rise to some exciting jobs (like Virtual Reality Architect) that combine the arts and technology.

2. Telesurgery and The Tactile Internet

5G will power a fascinating thing known as the “tactile internet” (this topic frankly deserves a separate piece — coming soon). The tactile internet is the next evolutionary step of the internet that will enable remote, real-time physical interaction with real and virtual objects. The tactile internet, essentially, will be able to synchronously map a person’s movement and duplicate this movement remotely and precisely. It combines ultra-low latency with extremely high availability, reliability and security, In other words, you’ll be able to perform a task in one location and have the effects of it felt, physically, in another location. In a world run by the tactile internet, the boundaries between the real world and the virtual world will blur, and we’ll revolutionize what it means to “work remotely”.

One major field that this will affect is medicine. Surgery, in particular, will be completely disrupted, giving rise to ‘Telesurgery’, a specific part of telemedicine. With the tactile internet, we’ll be able to deliver healthcare to patients anywhere and at any time. Highly trained doctors and surgeons, sitting in uninterrupted, sterile environments in, say, Boston, will be able to perform surgery on injured soldiers in Iraq.

In addition to making care available to everyone, it will also ensure that care is safer, as doctors can perform complex procedures without being affected by the VUCA(Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) environment that war-zones and remote parts of the world might present.

This technology might seem far-fetched or like it’s taken straight out of sci-fi movie, but some companies have already invested heavily in end-to-end 5G technologies that will power the tactile internet. Once we make the transition from 4G to 5G, anything is possible.

3. Education and An Enhanced Experience of Learning

The onset of 5G will open up a new chapter in Education. The way that we traditionally teach and learn will be completely transformed.

Already, learners are overwhelmed with information from the internet. With 5G, more students will be online, giving them access to unlimited information available with zero latency. Textbooks will be a thing of the past. The new model of education will be learner-centric, skill-centric, on-demand, and personalized. By combining Tactile Internet with AR and VR technology, students will have the opportunity to learn, discover, and explore remotely with minimal intervention from teachers.

The implications of AR and VR in the classroom have already been explored. Both technologies make distant learning a reality. They also allow students to have completely immersive experiences. VR can take students back to significant points in history, allow them to explore various cities of the world from their homes or classrooms, or enable them to take virtual tours of the human body. Within the classroom, teachers will be able to access necessary information about students’ needs and capabilities through AR applications, since AR can project the right information at the right time. This will enhance personalized learning.

Beyond that, 5G can power smart classrooms. With IoT applications, students can be automatically logged-into classrooms (whether they’re accessing the classrooms virtually or physically), reducing the administrative load that teachers often have to bear.

With tactile learning, teachers from all over the world will be able to access and teach students in any part of the world. The benefits of this go beyond just educating young people. For example, a highly trained surgeon from an urban area can train a remote doctor located in a rural area on a new, breakthrough procedure that could save hundreds of lives. With 5G, learning will become a lifelong, immersive, and awe-inspiring experience for everyone.

Preparing for The Future

Once we make the complete leap from 4G to 5G, the world as we know it will drastically change. It’s important now, more than ever, that we focus on preparing people for the future of work. With existing technology itself, research suggests that over 45% of the activities and tasks that we currently complete at our jobs will be automated. The onset of new, powerful mobile networks means that, as much as we can speculate about it, our future is quite unpredictable. However, what we can focus on is cultivating critical skills for the future that won’t be automated anytime soon: such as creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving.

I work @VMware. Philosophy, Psychology, Technology, Ethics, Policy

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