How 5G technology promises to make a fundamental difference to key sectors

The country’s first unmanned, remotely driven vehicle could soon be a reality. Last week Reliance Jio unveiled a raft of 5G-enabled applications at the India Mobile Congress in Delhi, and perhaps the most ambitious of these was the demonstration of two unmanned vehicles. Jointly developed by Jio, Ericsson and IIT Delhi, one was a car located at the IIT campus, and the other a bus at the Reliance Centre in Mumbai. The car was  driven remotely from Delhi’s Aerocity by someone on a simulator looking at live images on a screen.

 

The bus came equipped with a virtual reality camera on its roof, which gave the driver located in the same campus a live feed on his VR headset and enabled him to negotiate the wheel on a simulator. The real-time view available to the driver was, of course, possible because of a combination of high speed, low latency 5G mobile broadband service and the superior quality of the picture it produced. 

 

To enable remote driving, a limited 5G network was set up by putting in one tower in each location which were backhauled by fibre, just like existing 4G towers. 

 

Welcome to the new world of 5G mobile broadband service, which is expected to be launched in India by 2020, and will be 100 times faster than 4G services. Because of its high speed  and low latency, it promises to make a fundamental difference to key sectors such as health care, security, transportation, marketing, agriculture and so on. The remote control machine use demonstrated by Jio, for example, can be extended to many other applications such as industrial automation or robotic surgery. 

 

Reliance Jio itself is working on developing several 5G-driven applications with partners like Cisco, Huawei and Ericsson or through companies like the Oregon-based Radysis, which Jio has acquired for $75 million.

 

Radysis has built a “facial recognition” software platform which, powered by Jio’s 5G mobile broadband, can capture and transfer the facial video feed of every traveller passing through an airport. A backend server matches it with stored data from security agencies to determine whether or a passenger is a “person of interest”. Thanks to the low latency of 5G, it is possible to transfer the data in real time (technically within a milli-second) so that the backend software, which has the capability of processing 10,000 faces in a second, can do so with ease.

 

The platform can be used for many other purposes — in malls to understand consumer behaviour and preferences, in offices where it can replace swipe cards for attendance or in sensitive areas where there is a mob build-up. It could even replace boarding passes for air travel in the future. 

 

The health care industry has also become the focus of many 5G-related experimentations. For example, Jio is collaborating with Cisco and Bangalore-based Teslon Carenation (where Cisco  has invested) to bring wellness centres at the panchayat and taluka levels where doctors are rarely available. The model is simple: Create a public digital centre (PDC) staffed by a nurse and set it up with a video facility connected to a doctor elsewhere. The PDC is equipped with machines to take an ECG or a sonogram, blood pressure monitors, blood sugar monitors, a micro camera which can scan your throat, skin and ear — and all this is connected online through a 5G backend network to the doctor. The latter is then able to get the reports live on his screen, carry out his diagnosis and give his prescription online. 

 

Cisco executives say that the PDC model can make entrepreneurs out of villagers who could run it as a business. For example, instead of the medical software platform one could have a soil tester in a PDC and hook it up with an agricultural scientist instead of a doctor. The soil tester would transfer the necessary data to the scientist located remotely, who would then give his inputs on the condition of the soil, the crops suitable for it, and how much chemicals are to be used. 

 

At Delhi’s Mobile Congress Jio demonstrated the same concept by placing a 3D printer in a PDC. A 5G network connected the machine to a remote centre with designers and design software specialists. In the demonstration Jio tried to resolve the problem of a shoe-maker who needed a mould to make shoes in the village. Under normal circumstances, he would have to go to the city to get his mould, which would be a waste of time and money. But thanks to the PDC, the shoe-maker could talk to the designers and choose the mould he wanted. The software for the mould was generated, and soon, the 3D printer printed it and gave it to him for a price.

 

Clearly, 5G services are set to be a game-changer in myriad aspects of our lives.



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