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“We have a deep need and desire to connect. Everything in the history of communication technology suggests we will take advantage of every opportunity to connect more richly and deeply,” says Peter Morville, president of Semantic Studios.

Being connected is an essential thing to do in modern society. In a world striving to be smarter and more responsive than ever, merging the digital and physical universes is made possible. This is how the Internet of Things (IoT) entered into the technological scene.

According to IDC, there will be 41.6 billion connected IoT devices by 2025. These "things" — from something minuscule to something immense — all collect and share data, forming a digital intelligence.

Yet, at the core of creating a vast and reliable IoT network lies significant issues like scalability, latency, security, and network reliability. With the proliferation of the fifth-generation (5G) technology, IoT is deemed to be one of the important use cases of this innovation.

Let us understand how IoT in the 5G era will translate to the next level of connectivity.

Impact of 5G on IoT

5G plays an important role in realizing the full potential of IoT. Currently paving its way to commercial availability, 5G will be at the forefront of IoT networks when it expands globally in the next five to ten years. 

According to Strategy Analytics, 5G provided less than 1 percent of IoT connections in 2020. By 2030, this proportion is expected to surge and achieve cellular IoT connections of roughly 40 percent.

Without a doubt, 5G will enable people to control more devices remotely in applications where real-time network performance is critical. Moreover, the new 5G NR air interface can further enhance OFDM to deliver a much higher degree of flexibility, capacity, and throughput.

Data-transfer speeds: By providing faster download speeds, 5G can send data to and from 1 million devices per square kilometer, compared to 100,000 devices per square kilometer using 4G. These devices are not just smartphones and tablets, but also industrial sensors, wearables, medical devices, and autonomous vehicles.

McKinsey reported that globally, every second, another 127 devices are connected to the internet. With this in mind, the exponential increase in connectivity 5G promises to deliver enables a single-use device to conduct digitally-automated services. 

Reduce transmission delays: With the ability of a 5G network to handle more connected devices, faster response times and higher reliability will cause fewer delays — providing a more immersive experience.

Low latency is ideal for machines that drive themselves and time-sensitive actions that should be delivered immediately. Hence, a 5G network would optimize the delivery of huge volumes of changing data in real-time, a capability that no other technologies have.

Network reliability: Imagine how much data all IoT devices produce and how reliable a network should be to handle all of these. That is why in addition to the increase in speed, 5G networks will operate more reliably, leading to the creation of more stable connections.

Having reliable and stable network conditions is extremely important for IoT, particularly for connected devices like locks, security cameras, and other monitoring systems. These devices depend on real-time updates.

High density: In particular, 5G can support Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) connections. It is based on a low-power wide-area network radio technology standard that supports a range of cellular devices and services.

5G can work both ways — it could serve deployments of fewer devices that need lots of bandwidth and support a huge number of devices at the same time in a specific range. The latter is made possible as 5G has a connection density that is about 500 times higher than 4G.

An interconnected society: Smart cities

Up until today, LTE is the most popular and most-used network, but as the future unfolds, LTE will not suffice to meet the standards and expectations of new devices. LTE was optimized for smartphones, whereas 5G will be the mobile standard to connect all “things”.

“Massive machine-to-machine (M2M) communication combined with 5G’s coming incorporation of NB-IoT capabilities could further encourage IoT deployments,” according to Bill Menezes, the director analyst at Gartner. This includes smart cities that face less scalability with other mobile wireless technologies such as 4G LTE or Wi-Fi.

In many aspects of our lives, we want accessibility, convenience, and security. In response to this, 5G and IoT can create smart city networks on which new applications and services can enhance every resident’s life. For example, in an IoT-equipped city powered by 5G, a person who is driving to a concert can receive real-time notifications of available parking slots while en route.

There are essential elements necessary for thriving smart cities but on top of it all is pervasive wireless connectivity. With 5G, the focus will be on extreme simplicity and low-power consumption to ensure longer operation time and broad coverage for hard-to-reach locations. In this way, 5G essentially removes one of the brakes on the development of the IoT and rather drives it further for mass adoption.

In the UAE alone, the pursuit of sustainability roadmaps and the transformation of the urban landscape are harnessed by various technologies including IoT and 5G. Several smart cities, including Masdar City and The Sustainable City, have already been developed while Saudi Arabia’s “The Line”, which is a part of the billion-dollar megacity development called NEOM, was unveiled as part of its Vision 2030.

With connectivity at the heart of industry transformation, 5G will have a key role to play for IoT. Sooner than later, staying connected will become easier for everyone. The interconnectedness among humans and the Internet — which is already prevalent — will evolve into a much purposeful and practical one.

See yourself in the middle of a crowded area and just think of the many possibilities that could happen if you can connect to anyone or anything at your fingertips. Taking this into account, the next level of connectivity we will have will bring an enormous influence on how we will live, play, work, and decide in the years to come.

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