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5G and IoT: What They Are and Why They Matter

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  December 21st, 2018  By Meg Cannistra

Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images

Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images

As technology continues to advance, so does the infrastructure used to connect it. While 4G is the norm for cellular connectivity, 5G is right around the corner and destined to make its debut — in a few different iterations — in 2019. Sprint, for example, announced a partnership with LG to deliver the first 5G smartphone in the U.S. in early 2019.

While smartphones are the obvious use-case for 5G, other companies have different ideas around how this technology can be used to make consumers’ lives a little smarter. Namely by utilizing 5G to further advance the Internet of Things (IoT) movement.

What are 5G and IoT?

Before getting too deep, it’s best to define what 5G and IoT are. It’s likely you’ve heard both tossed around on tech blogs, but it’s often hard to nail down an explanation that makes sense.

To put it simply, 5G is the successor to 4G. It’s the fifth generation of cellular communication. The reason everyone’s so excited about 5G is because it offers lower latency (faster responses on your phone) and greater capacity and device connectivity (room for carriers to expand to more consumers) while being less expensive and more energy efficient. This is a huge step forward, not only for faster smartphones, but also for how we develop the IoT.

The IoT, or “the Internet of Things,” is the phrase used to categorize devices (smart home gadgets, appliances, and cars) that have the technological capability to connect with one another as well as collect, transfer, and report data. These devices are designed with the components to make them “intelligent.” For example, the Nest Learning Thermostat is smarter than your average thermostat. It’s an IoT device that monitors your home’s energy consumption and reports this data to you. It also uses sensors to know when you’re away from home and will adjust the temperature accordingly. Ultimately, the IoT strives to make life more convenient through the use of smart gadgets to streamline daily tasks, big and small.

Why do 5G and IoT matter?

Keeping these definitions in mind, it’s easy to see how 5G and IoT complement one another and why developments in both will impact your life. 5G will help set the path for a more sophisticated use of the IoT. RCR Wireless News interviewed Qualcomm Senior Vice President Raj Talluri, who explained that with 5G’s larger capacity and lower latency, we can scale IoT and push the boundaries of how it serves us. Talluri said to RCR Wireless News:

I think with 5G, the scope and scale of IoT is going to be so impressive. Imagine a city filled with a swarm of sensors, monitoring everything from traffic to environment and air quality to critical services, and this information can be communicated back to you as you navigate the city’s streets. Or think about sensors in our forests that are able to detect fires early and communicate that data to emergency responders.

With the power of 5G to further advance the IoT, technological breakthroughs that improve our daily lives on both larger and smaller scales will continue.

For now, though, you’ll likely see the biggest buzz around how 5G will impact your smartphone’s performance. Sprint isn’t the only one with a 5G smartphone on the horizon. Rumblings around a 5G iPhone slated for 2020 have already begun.

That said, Verizon has already taken 5G beyond smartphones by launching “the world’s first commercial 5G network” in select cities across the U.S. This network provides 5G broadband internet in homes across Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, and Sacramento. With this kind of connectivity in the home, expect to see more developments around home automation and the IoT in the near future.

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