With the widespread application of 5G technology in companies, it makes a lot of sense to talk about investing in devices that automatically capture data of interest to improve our knowledge of certain situations and thus be able to improve some company activities. This has come to be called “the internet of things” (IoT) in the business context.
Like any developing technology, we have many doubts:
- What is 5G?
- What is the internet of things (IoT)?
- What is the relationship between 5G and IoT?
- How can these technologies add value to companies?
- What other implications do these types of technologies have?
These and some other questions, we will try to specify in this post so that anyone, in the exercise of their professional responsibilities, can assess the suitability or not of applying these technologies in their company.
Although scientific rigor is lost, we are going to address these issues in a way that is entertaining and can be understood by anyone outside the technological world so that it is not a question of preparing an academic article but a support document for those responsible for companies who are interested in improving their decision-making system and internal processes. To do this, we will start by answering the questions we have asked ourselves.
What is 5G technology, and what features does it have?
5G technology is nothing more than a type of mobile network (without cable) whose functionality is similar to what we know so far as 4G, 3G, etc. The name of 5G refers to the fifth generation of networks mobile phones that we know, and as has happened with their predecessors, every time a new generation appears, improvements and news are produced.
Specifically, the advantages that 5G technology gives us are mainly:
- That will allow us to navigate faster: It will allow us to navigate at least 10 to 100 times faster than the current maximum speed to get an idea. Imagine what it means to download a movie at a speed of 10 Gbps; we could do it in a few seconds.
- That will greatly reduce the latency time: Perhaps this is one of the most important improvements. When we talk about latency, we refer to the time it takes to transmit a packet (voice, data, etc…) within the network. Simplifying the problem, we can say that latency is the culprit of communications. When a person (sender) speaks through a device (for example, the telephone), the receiver does not hear it instantly but passes it. Time until you hear it, what we colloquially call lag.
- That allows more connections: This technology allows a greater number of devices to access the network simultaneously (in theory, one million connected devices per square kilometer, ten times more than 4G networks)
- Lower energy consumption: 5G technology requires less power consumption to connect and transmit data compared to current systems.
Later we will be able to see how, with only these characteristics, a range of new possibilities opens up that can be applied for the benefit of companies and users.
What is and what characteristics does the Internet of Things (IoT) have?
The concept of the internet of things refers to the digital interconnection of everyday objects with the internet. Still, thinking of companies, we could also speak of the interconnection to any other type of network (not necessarily the internet).
For this interconnection to occur, we need:
- Firstly, what we have called everyday objects have some element that allows the emission (and in some cases also the reception) of data in digital format. For this, many sensors allow this functionality to be achieved. However, shortly, it will be increasingly common for the objects to be acquired with this type of built-in sensor. The types of sensors are very varied such as vibration detectors, temperature meter, humidity meter, luminosity, etc.
- The connection of these sensors (of everyday objects) to a network, usually the internet network.
At the end of what is involved is to exchange data between elements that capture them (machines, warehouses, etc…) and an analysis center that transforms said data into useful information for the company.
We will see later the applications that all this can have in practice.
What 5G and IoT technology have to do with it
As we have seen in the previous point, when we talk about IoT, we are talking about the connection between different objects and a network (internet or another). To connect these objects, we need to do it through one of the following systems:
- Through a physical cable, be it optical fiber, coaxial cable, etc…
- Without cables, from the propagation of signals through certain frequency bands through space, with Wi-Fi systems or another similar system (mobile phones, radio, etc.).
It is precisely the characteristics of 5G technology that make it possible for the wireless connection of objects through a Wi-Fi network of this type to multiply the interest in the development of the IoT, since there is an interest in measuring new things than before we did not consider ourselves, as a consequence of :
- The connection with very low latency allows us to measure things that were not possible or previously lacked interest since the response time was inadequate. As an example, to better assess this situation, we can think of a sensor that captures the presence of an unwanted object in the range of a cutting tool. In this case, the data transmission time can be critical to avoid an unwanted situation. There are many other examples in this sense; perhaps the most visible is that of autonomous driving, not only cars but also mobile machinery in a warehouse.
- 5G technology will allow more devices to be connected simultaneously and without investing in cabling, which means a lower cost. Data that could previously be desirable, but was not easy to obtain, is now available more easily and cheaply.
- The lower energy consumption of 5G networks will allow the proliferation of more connected devices from the point of view of energy cost, which is a very common strategic requirement for companies to compete in this global environment. However, it should be noted that possibly, even temporarily, there may be an increase in the energy consumption of the devices that connect to this type of network to meet the needs of higher speed and greater bandwidth.
How these technologies add value to SMEs. Examples
According to everything seen so far, 5G technology and the IoT mean for companies at least:
Substantially improve your digital communications system since it means an increase in speed, a reduction in latency and energy consumption, and the possibility of connecting a greater number of simultaneous devices.
As a consequence of the previous point, new opportunities are opened to companies in two ways:
- To modify its value proposition (what it offers to the market) according to the characteristics of these technologies. This will depend on the sector and the company’s scale within the market value system.
- They are capturing new data that allows companies to improve their decision-making system and redesign their business processes. It is precise as a consequence of this last possibility, where integrating these technologies with traditional business management systems is necessary, the most important exponent of which is the ERP comprehensive management systems.
To facilitate the identification of new opportunities, it is best to propose different examples or practical applications to allow us to improve our practical knowledge on this subject. Let’s see some of them:
In the case of production systems that use complex facilities made up of a multitude of machinery and additional elements, it is very important to guarantee the normal activity of all its components since, otherwise, the entire system will stop. Different cases respond to this situation, such as:
- A newspaper printing press, which should not be idle for a single day. In this case, the inclusion of sensors that measured the vibrations of the different bearings and other data (temperatures, humidity, etc…) allowed a company to detect with great success problems its machinery that was very difficult to detect and that allowed them to reduce long time corrective repairs. They were able to detect when a bearing had to be changed before it caused a failure.
- A grinding of aggregates for the production of different types of products, depending on the raw material used. This is a case similar to the previous one. The different sensors and the application of Deep Learning algorithms have made it possible to identify problems before the failure occurs, reducing unscheduled downtime.
The data of a warehouse (“the warehouse that talks”). The warehouse is an important source of data capture that would allow us to improve internal processes, depending on the activity that it develops. Among the main utilities we have:
- Temperature and humidity sensors help us maintain storage conditions and detect and anticipate problems resulting from unwanted values of the parameters we measure. An unsuitable temperature can negatively affect the conservation of certain products, not only related to food, but also with others of a plastic, iron, etc … nature.
- The motion sensors, weights, etc… Can help us better manage locations and optimize traffic.
The data from the digital trail left by visitors to our website, whether it is a corporate portal or an eCommerce. The measurement of data of a different nature allows us to assess the maturity of the visitor about possible interactions with the company. In this way, our content proposal can be personalized to facilitate the visitor’s interest in our proposal.
In the case of products related to the security of buildings or vehicles, sensors are essential to measuring the parameters that allow offering a value proposition adapted to the state of technology. The timely detection of the illegal occupation of second homes, location of stolen cars, etc… are services that could not be carried out without this type of technological application.
The identification of people for the authorization of access.
Additional implications of using this technology
The direct consequence of increasing the investment in the IoT with 5G technology is the exponential increase in the data captured and what should be treated with the information systems, either locally or in the cloud.
For this, technologies have been developed for some years that try to respond to new needs. We will focus on the two that we think can help us better understand this phenomenon or that will be in regular use in the future. We refer to:
Edge Computing: In this case, it is a new way of doing things, so that computing and data storage are not always required centrally (usually in the cloud), but rather that local processing and storage capabilities can be used without prejudice to the centralization of the information that is required. More technically, it could be said that it is a distributed computing paradigm that brings computing and data storage to the location where it is needed to improve response times and save bandwidth. Therefore we can say that Edge Computing enables data produced by IoT devices to be processed closer to where it was created rather than sent through long journeys to reach data centers and cloud computing. This affects various issues, such as data security, since, in many cases, they will not have to travel over the internet.
Big Data: This technology is much more widespread and consists of analyzing and interpreting large volumes of data, both structured and unstructured. Big Data serves so that companies can use data stored remotely as the basis for their decision-making.
Undoubtedly, the appearance of 5G technology has made possible a substantial improvement in the digital connection between different types of devices, which allows taking advantage of new possibilities with a direct application in companies:
It allows a strong development in actions related to preventive and predictive maintenance on the different assets of the company, allowing to reduce unplanned downtime, which represents a significant increase in productivity.
Process automation and flow control. The capture of data in any digital format will autonomously activate the execution of personalized procedures to the value of the captured data.
Alert systems. It will be very easy to design an alert system that allows us to manage unwanted situations or contingencies from the data collected.
Undoubtedly, this technology has come to stay since it is destined to be the one that will replace the current 4G system over time, so incorporating it among the operating resources of companies can be a decisive factor to compete in the future. Let us think that it is not a free choice, since what we do not do, the competition will do, and the first to apply it successfully, the easier it is for them to develop competitive advantages.