5G making the impossible a reality

In the past 10 years, we have been connected more than ever before. 4G became part of our everyday life and the “always-on” principle has never been more accurate. With the rise of 5G, you might wonder what more this type of connectivity can bring us? Even faster internet? Being able to process bigger amounts of data? The answer might (will) surprise you.

5G is about to transform the way we are connected. It will change the way businesses operate and it will make the impossible a reality. So, what makes 5G so different from 4G and even WiFi?

Enhanced mobile broadband

The amount of data you can pass through 5G is much more than what was possible with 4G and even today’s WiFi. This is interesting for the ever more data processing and hungry applications we are using daily. Yet, it’s not the most transformative characteristic for businesses.

Low latency & ultra-reliability

5G can transfer data with low latency. Latency is the time the network needs to process data. In many use cases, applications can truly transform the way we work if they can leverage such an ultra-low latency (e.g. real-time) data processing.

Take ambulances for example; they require ultra-fast connectivity in the field, as they might need to perform first aid procedures for which remote expertise is in order. With 5G and a 360° camera they could livestream their entire surroundings, including the patient and its situation, to surgeons with the right expertise. These surgeons could even appear as holograms to assist the paramedics in the field, all in real-time.

Not only does the network need to be fast, but it also needs to be reliable (think about the surgeon or the paramedics who transfer patient data during surgery). Luckily, 5G offers you both!

Another example in the medical field is the ability to perform surgery from the other side of the world. An American surgeon for instance can perform an operation in Europe by controlling a surgical robot from his own office in America. 5G eliminates any knowledge distance and allows us to share knowledge and data in real-time, from anywhere. It makes it possible to share our expertise in the metaverse – the next version of the internet, focusing on social connection.

Network slicing

Something completely new that has not been possible before: 5G supports network slicing. This means you can literarily divide a 5G network into different slices and leverage tailor-made network connectivity. It allows you to optimize your entire network to its specific purpose, with its own specific rules. Companies can rent a designated slice of the 5G network and within that specific slice, they determine the rules and the network behavior.

Take the Port of Antwerp for example. Thousands of their devices are connected to the internet today; robots, trucks, automatic semi-trailers, … As a port company, you want to be able to determine your own rules, and your own security.

The same goes for services. Home nursing services must maintain a medical file about all their patients. When visiting a patient at home, they can all access this information by connecting their iPad to the same network, again, with their own settings.

To own a private network on a large scale isn’t as easy and adaptable with WiFi or 4G. But besides being more performant, it also has the power to transform business models or even create new business models. How? By being able to connect your devices and installations out-of-the-box, you can make them – as we call it – smart devices. This opens a whole new spectrum of opportunities.

Let’s look at heat pump installations for example. A heat pump is an installation that could be connected to the internet. However, today, not all devices are connected. Maybe there’s no steady WiFi connection available, or maybe the customer doesn’t even know it’s possible. 5G makes it possible to connect every device a company owns to its own private network. Whether your client has a steady internet connection or not does not matter anymore. By connecting the installations to a private network slice, the company can monitor its performance 24/7. This allows them to offer extra services to their customers, such as:

  • Optimize the heat pump’s operations in a predictive manner; based on weather forecasts
  • Heating a building based on how many people are present at that time.

You might have already noticed that all the examples above have a positive impact on the environment as well. This is great, because today many companies aren’t managing their energy consumption as they should.

We genuinely believe that the rise of 5G will have a positive impact on the environment. Of course, this is just one example. But there are many other ways 5G will reduce the impact we have. Combining 5G with smartglasses such as HoloLens, and remote working enters a whole new sphere – which will reduce traveling, which will reduce our carbon footprint.

Massive connectivity

5G allows many (many!) more devices to onboard and use the network simultaneously. Up to 1.000.000 per square kilometer! In the example above about the Port of Antwerp, massive connectivity is in order to connect all the devices to the same network slice.

Another example that shows the importance of massive connectivity lies within the field of fish auctions. Providing every cooling box with a chip inside, opens the door to many new opportunities:

  • Allow order pickers to read which box must be shipped to which customer.
  • Monitor the inside temperature constantly.
  • Guarantee that not a single cooling box is opened before reaching the destination.
  • Automatize loading and shipping of the boxes using robots.

Why are we so excited about 5G?

For some of our use cases, we need 5G to make the solution work. Take the “Holographic BIM Visualizer” we are building for Hooyberghs for example. Hooyberghs is a construction company with over 70 simultaneous sites throughout Belgium. They teamed up with us to visualize 3D BIM models on a 1:1 scale at the construction site. These BIM models are visualized as an exact holographic overlay on top of the real building (under construction), which you can walk through.

To ensure high performance holographic experiences of complex 3D BIM models while using the HoloLens, a traditional approach that renders everything on-device requires us to compress the models and remove polygons. This means we lose a lot of important details. In that case, remote rendering is in order. Everything gets calculated (and rendered) inside a very powerful data center in the cloud; and streamed in real-time to the HoloLens. Of course, this requires a strong ultra-low latency internet connectivity. Exactly what 5G offers!

That’s why we teamed up with Proximus and their 5G Innovation Platform. We even were the first company in Belgium to build a production-ready application on top of that innovation platform.

Of course, this is just one example. We are also working closely together with Dr. Tollens from the Imelda Hospital in Bonheiden. He uses the HoloLens to broadcast live surgeries worldwide or to visualize live monitoring data. During surgery, one second of delay can mean the difference between life or death, so needless to say 5G is in absolute order.