An invisible revolution?

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Rob SiegersWhile first 5G mobile handsets made the headlines at this year’s Mobile World Congress, the new technology will have its biggest impact behind the scenes.

There was a lot riding on the anticipated product launches at the mobile industry’s biggest annual get-together this year. Samsung and Huawei launched their first 5G-ready handsets, hoping that the new communications technology will re-ignite growth in a sector that has struggled to maintain its momentum in recent years.

There’s no doubt that 5G has a lot to offer

The most significant transformation in mobile communications for a decade, the new networks promise speed increases of an order of magnitude, reduced energy consumption and network support for much more data traffic. I am confident that 5G will usher in a revolution in communications and connectivity. But I’m also convinced that most of that revolution will have little to do with the phone in your pocket.

Previous new generations of mobile technology have tended to benefit consumers first and foremost. But with 5G, the main beneficiary is likely to be industry. In technologically mature markets, next-generation wireless capabilities will bring richer content consumption, decreased latency, better real-time processing through edge computing, and management of applications in the cloud.

Meanwhile in countries that do not yet have internet access, connectivity issues will become a thing of the past, as these nations achieve a mobile-first internet experience with minimal legacy infrastructure to overhaul with the setup of 5G.

Crucially, as Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) technology and the existing 4G network develop towards new 5G IoT solutions, we will be able to handle the data generated by millions of interconnected objects. The possible use cases abound. autonomous vehicles will be able to communicate in real time, improving safety and streamlining the flow of traffic. Smart cities will be able to adapt their infrastructure to the needs of citizens and the environment, for example by turning down the streetlights when there is nobody about. Production lines will be more efficient, more adaptable and more controllable thanks to wireless and machine-to-machine communication. Doctors will be able to conduct real-time remote surgical procedures.

In my industry, the combination of next-generation wireless, omni-channel logistics, IoT, and big data analytics is likely to take supply chain and logistics technology to the next level. Transmitters and receivers will pop up everywhere as edge computing expands. And there will be more data to crunch and more insights to work from.

Considering these trends and the current logistics landscape, there seem to be three key opportunities for logistics professionals. The first is 100% internet access, enabling full end-to-end connectivity around the world without white spots. The second is extended battery life for IoT devices, accelerating asset monitoring and tracking in logistics. And the third is seamless indoor and outdoor connectivity and localization which can strengthen new and disruptive business cases.

Before that potential becomes a reality, however there are significant barriers to overcome. Deployment of 5G and NB-IoT is not yet foreseeable on a global scale. It will take time and a lot of money to develop essential new low-power wide area networks (LPWANs). It will also be a huge task to achieve interoperability between networks because of proprietary standards. And preparations for large-scale IoT deployment are likely to be extremely time intensive.

Despite these challenges

At DHL we believe anything is possible with the right partners and a co-creation mindset. Our consultative approach brings us into close collaboration with technology customers and strategic partners to contribute our deep sector expertise and proven best practice. That’s why we are already collaborating to push the pace of change, looking specifically at the low latency of 5G, which makes it a key enabler for autonomous driving, and the low-energy benefits of LPWANs, which allow new globally utilizable tracking and condition monitoring capabilities for parcels and devices. If you would like to help accelerate joint development and enable rapid prototyping, we would love to hear from you! Let’s innovate the future together.

By Rob Siegers

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