PA Consulting’s technology expert, Time Devine, discusses the benefits of using 5G, IoT and the cloud work together.
Coronavirus is proving a tipping point for tech adoption; cloud, IoT and 5G are at the heart of this acceleration into digitalisation, but are their benefits interdependent?
1. Cloud computing
For many companies that were forced to shutter their business premises due to coronavirus restrictions, the cloud has helped their newly decentralised enterprise remain operational.
Essentially, cloud computing allows businesses to run sophisticated applications and store data on several dispersed computers, accessible via an internet connection. During the pandemic, this meant company data and software applications could be accessed easily at home, instead of being locked into office-based servers.
Tim says with Microsoft Office moving to the cloud, it is now “endemic” in everything we do: “Almost every smartphone app is connecting to a cloud service or application, so everyone is effectively using it.”
Interest in IoT use-cases has also been boosted by the pandemic.
From connected household lightbulbs and thermostats to industry 4.0 applications, IoT networks encompass a huge range of capabilities that can vary wildly between sectors.
Whether edge or central cloud services are required depends on the operation but, as a rule, for critical applications, such as deploying IoT-supported autonomous machines on factory floors, servers making decisions should be close by for reduced latency. Adding 5G networking could improve efficiencies further.
Furthermore, the cloud makes many less critical IoT applications, such as smart lightbulbs and thermostats, affordable, Tim adds.
“Without the cloud, the cost of running the application would be expensive; sensors need to be low power and low cost, which wouldn’t be possible if embedded with operational software.”
According to Tim, the impact of 5G, which offers ultra-fast speeds, increased spectrum and lower latency, on IoT and cloud technologies remains to be seen: “5G will be required for massive IoT or many millions of devices all connected in a small area and the business case for those solutions are yet to be proven.”
Massive 5G-enabled IoT is expected to be most valuable for industrial applications, including hospitals, railways and manufacturing, to support remote surgery and wireless autonomous machines that could utilise private 5G networking.
Tim adds that early applications are being considered in manufacturing and German manufacturers, in particular, have been keen to buy private 5G spectrum. It is also being explored in film production for wireless mobile automated cameras.
For homeworkers, 5G will have to compete with fibre broadband, unless in an area with poor connection, then the next generation cellular network “might be a very convenient and speedy way of delivering that bandwidth”, Tim says.
He adds: “What’s going to happen first, I think, is with more IoT devices automating more workplaces over time, people will access the sensor data remotely over the cloud and that will mean demand for bandwidth and 5G will increase.”
For implementation, the difficulty will be integrating new generations of technology onto old generations. Tim says: “It’s possible existing cloud services won’t be robust enough to support the new IoT 5G-led services that will be available.”