5G rollout offers an upgrade to existing IoT deployments in many areas like retail and remote work and paves the way for new kinds of IoT projects.
Since the first significant launch barely two years ago, the 5G rollout has continued a steady adoption pace worldwide and is becoming more commercially available by the day. A unique combination of real-time data transfer and device communication, broad coverage, and low latency, the fifth-generation (5G) technology fits the bill as an enabler of larger-scale and more sophisticated IoT deployments. Beyond that, as more and more telecom providers today are diversifying their service offerings with vertical IoT enablement, companies have started committing to more ambitious projects, having knowledgeable connectivity partners by their side.
Let’s take a closer look at the growth and development opportunities that the 5G rollout opens up for IoT-enabled enterprises.
Fully Remote Operation
The pandemic brought about an unprecedented workplace disruption, forcing businesses to switch to remote work even in the sectors historically relying on direct manual labor, such as manufacturing, energy, and supply chain. Amid this crisis, IoT proved to be a remote work enabler, allowing employees to monitor and manage production lines and their performance, the condition of warehouses and inventory, and other critical metrics in real-time through the system of connected endpoints and smart equipment. According to 84 percent of stakeholders surveyed for Vodafone’s IoT Spotlight Report 2020, it was the key factor in maintaining business continuity.
5G connectivity is poised to ramp up existing remote monitoring capabilities even further. Instead of relying solely on sensor data, workers can tap into high-quality, uninterrupted video streams from shop floor cameras. Real-time video feeds will prove instrumental in timely defect and downtime detection, product quality and employee monitoring, and inspection of large sites.
Human-Machine Interface in 5G Rollout
On-site network deployment in the 5G rollout will allow enterprise owners to scale up their robotic and connected machinery infrastructures and supplement them with such an advanced operations control layer as human-machine interfaces. This way, an enterprise can grow more self-sufficient. The need for an on-site workforce will be minimized, with employees maintaining granular real-time control over the machinery and managing operations from anywhere.
At the moment, Asian manufacturers are blazing a trail with their 5G-enabled projects assisted by local providers of IoT in telecom. One of the notable examples in this field is Conch Group, the leading Chinese cement manufacturer, which adopted 5G in 2019 with the help of Huawei and has since reported not only the project’s success but also major resource utilization improvements and energy efficiency gains.
Productive Virtual Collaboration
As telework’s shift upended the established flow of workplace communication, IoT, among other innovative technologies, came into the spotlight as an aid for distributed teams.
As remote workers started setting up shop, connected conferencing equipment, previously the preserve of smart meeting rooms, have migrated to home offices. Devices like cameras with automatic speech recognition engines and interactive whiteboards with live-edit capabilities form the basis of work-from-home setups, instrumental in creating the participation effect during team calls and reducing the frictions of remote collaboration. Moreover, employees have grown increasingly reliant on their virtual assistants like Alexa or Google Nest to take notes or create reminders and to-do lists during video calls, staying focused more easily.
The 5G rollout encourages teams to collaborate setups up a notch, and integrate solutions that can render online meetings more engaging. Found appealing by 55 percent of the companies surveyed for Nokia’s 5G report, virtual reality conferencing is currently making waves in the business world, accessible wider than ever due to 5G’s faster connection speed, better bandwidth, and reliability. In a virtual environment, employees can meet face-to-face in the form of realistic avatars and share data and demonstrate images and videos. Enabling an almost life-like presence during meetings, VR facilitates better understanding between the participants while also overcoming isolation.
VR and IoT convergence also allow remote teams to freely interact with digital twins — virtual 3D replicas of equipment or other physical assets, automatically created based on real-time sensor data. With 5G ensuring uninterrupted and speedy data transmission, employees can get together in a virtual room to effectively collaborate on some simulated object without leaving their homes.
With the means to collaborate effectively over time and distance, companies have no reason to rush back to the offices. Still, they can adopt telework as a viable option for the long term after the pandemic subsides.
Frictionless Customer Experience
In 2021, customer experience is still a major market differentiator. Over the last year, consumers across generations have grown more tech-savvy and used to highly convenient omnichannel journeys. Along with that, while understandably prioritizing safety and value for money, customers today are less reluctant to try out new things and are longing for excitement.
The increasing availability of 5G makes IoT, a technology previously adopted in retail, banking, hospitality, and other customer-facing industries at a slow pace, emerge as a suitable tool for delivering on the gamut of these evolved expectations.
For instance, improved connectivity brings up the cashier-less store technology, popularized by Amazon and actively implemented by large chains, closer to rank-and-file retailers outside cities, allowing business owners to meet customers’ need for a touchless and hygienic in-person shopping experience. Similar technology can be implemented in banking branches across the board to facilitate cardless withdrawals and no-touch self-service.
Autonomous transportation and last-mile delivery is another technology promoting the safety of both employees and customers that 5G made feasibly. With much faster transmission speed, businesses can now implement data-heavy but more holistic and traffic-efficient vehicle-to-everything communication systems for their delivery trucks.
Apart from enhancing the safety of in-person experiences, IoT is also poised to render them more engaging and convenient. Today, large retail brands invest in smart mirrors and fitting rooms that not only overlay clothes and makeup on the customer’s image but, being part of the store ecosystem, can instantaneously supply up-to-date information about the item’s availability.
Growth and Innovation
For IoT-enabled enterprises, the 5G rollout-induced growth and innovation avenues not only abound but are within easy reach.
Teaming up with a telecom operator and an expert IoT development company, an enterprise can swiftly ramp up its existing connected infrastructure and tap into new IoT use cases while also being sure the transformation will turn out successful and secure.