Four ways 5G will change life in smart cities:
Like the steam engine and electricity, 5G wireless is a general-purpose technology, and will affect all aspects of life in a smart city. Here are four ways in which 5G will change the urban landscape — and how cities are already responding:
1. Helping people move across crowded urban areas with ease
5G networks will power the sensors and devices that support cities’ mobility networks. This will give rise to connected autonomous vehicles and intelligent transportation networks. All of which will reduce the number of vehicles on the road.
This change is already underway in some parts of the world. Shanghai is the first Chinese city to build an intelligent vehicle network using 5G, which is projected to cover 100 square kilometers by 2020.
Other cities are already moving toward a low- or no-car future. In Phoenix in the US, Waymo has launched the world’s first self-driving taxi fleet. Oslo is about to permanently ban cars from its city center. Berlin, Madrid, Mexico City and more are following suit, as well as redesigning their busiest streets for walking, not driving.
2. Using data to run city operations on an unprecedented scale
5G networks will transmit data rapidly from large numbers of sensors and IoT networks. This will allow cities to constantly recalibrate all their services in real time to reflect changes in the environment.
Chicago is piloting this concept on a much smaller scale with its Array of Things urban sensing project. First, a network of sensors will collect real-time data on things like weather, traffic, pollution and trash collection. City leaders then work with businesses, civic groups and universities to act on that data, and adapt the city’s operations to suit.
3. Improving public safety and automating emergency response
In South Korea, mobile operator KT is developing an airborne platform for disaster and safety management. The platform uses drone surveillance and robots to carry out search-and-rescue operations. Rescuers will also have augmented reality glasses that connect directly to doctors, to help them give emergency treatment at the scene.
This is just one example of an emerging reality. Smart, sensor-enabled technologies open up the possibility of many more – from detecting potential maintenance issues on infrastructure networks before they become failures, to rapidly redirecting traffic following accidents and other incidents. The combination of more data, faster analysis, and rapid responses that 5G enables could revolutionize the way cities work.
4. Closing the digital divide
One of the challenges of rapid urbanization is making sure all residents have access to the same opportunities and access to services like broadband, education and health care, as well as the ability to take advantage of mobility services and economic opportunities. Huawei and the Kenyan mobile network operator, Safaricom, are partnering to bring 5G services to Nairobi and rural areas around the city. These will give people access to education, along with literacy and training programs.
5G will also allow people to access health care using telecommunications technology, while sensors monitor their vital signs. In the US, Verizon is partnering with Columbia University in New York City to pilot remote surgery and physical therapy, and deliver telehealth, through 5G. Technologies like this will enable health care providers to provide rapid care to many, and allow patients to age at home.