Digital Tech

Taking on the 5G Lens

Tan Poey Poh

Director of 5G Technology, Digital Systems, ST Engineering

As the digital wave sweeps the world, continuous innovation have led to the development of many new technologies with the aim of speeding up business growth and enhancing communication for a more connected world. Among which, the hottest topic that is widely spoken of is 5G technology on the multitude of benefits it brings to everyone: from enterprises to consumers. We had a conversation with our 5G expert, Poey Poh, on how innovations and experiences can be elevated with 5G technology.

Q: What is 5G and its role in today’s digital world?

5G is the latest generation of mobile and wireless standards that is designed to transform industries and enterprises. While 4G has ushered in the app economy and enabled the digital lifestyle of consumers, 5G will enable the digital transformation of industries/businesses. This is essential  as we have all seen Covid-19 upending our lives and causing enterprises scrambling to cope with the rapid disruptions and changes. Enterprises are realising the need to adopt digital technology to stay nimble and tap on new business opportunities. 5G is poised to be that digital technology platform.

While there are many reasons why 5G is poised to be the technology platform of choice, including pervasive coverage, reliability, assured high bandwidth and low latency, one highlight is that 5G technology is Cloud Native. This means that 5G can leverage on the innovations of the software industry to provide new functionalities. In other words, 5G is software driven and programmable, and provides an innovative platform for enterprises, software developers and industry operational technology players to collaborate, rethink and reimagine existing operational and business processes to help enterprises become more digital, agile and automated.

Q: What are the opportunities that 5G can provide?

5G can help enterprises to be more connected, agile, and innovative to capture new opportunities. Unlike WiFi which provides a wireless extension of limited range (multiples of metres), 5G is a wide area network providing ubiquitous coverage. As a mobile cellular technology, one can expect 5G coverage to be as good as 4G as its network gets build up. This pervasive connectivity enables enterprises to respond flexibly to changing needs, such as shifting operations from one place to another, unencumbered by physical infrastructure. On top of that, 5G platform allows enterprise applications to be developed and deployed at the edge close to end users, improving security and applications performance.

Q: How can 5G be applied across industries?

5G is set to disrupt and transform many industries and verticals such as manufacturing, ports, transportation, energy, logistics sectors etc. Among which, 5G could bring about impacts in these 3 areas:

How 5G is applicable to unmanned and remote operations:

5G can add tremendous value in unmanned and remote operations, especially in dangerous and hazardous environments. Unmanned systems needs ultra-reliable and high performance connectivity for telemetry, tracking and command. It also needs to operate across wide areas to fulfil its mission. 5G ticks all these boxes. Unmanned systems’ have stringent requirements on connectivity in order to control the payloads (actuators, sensors, cameras etc) and leverage on high resolution video services for situation awareness to tele-operate the platforms. 5G, with its wide area coverage, ultra-reliability, high bandwidth and low latency connectivity, is an important enabler to advance new operational capabilities and push the innovation boundaries for unmanned and remote operations.

How 5G is applicable to manufacturing sector:

Today, manufacturing lines are hard-wired, making any changes or reconfiguration of the lines costly and time consuming. 5G will make any changes in capacities and configurations of the manufacturing lines highly flexible and agile. This is important as factories constantly need to adapt to product mix or volume changes driven by rapid changes in user behaviours and demand. 5G also enables new capabilities in smart manufacturing such as the use of collaborative robots to automate tasks. Beyond connectivity, 5G is an innovation platform that will enable the manufacturing sector to tap on new software applications (e.g. computer vision application for quality inspection) developed by the Industry 4.0 community, ensuring access to the most innovative applications that drive value creation.

How 5G is applicable to video surveillance sectors:

Today, the implementation of video surveillance systems is onerous and time consuming, limiting the scope and scale of such systems. The projects are infrastructure-heavy, involving trenching/cabling works to wire up the video surveillance cameras. The backend video systems are typically closed and it is inflexible to add new capabilities. This approach limits the widespread proliferation and adoption of video solutions to many industries and sectors. 5G offers an asset-light model which removes many limitations of a infrastructure-centric model, and enables a faster go-to-market. In addition, 5G edge and cloud computing platform enables access to a wide range of video analytics applications and services. This asset-light model also offers businesses the opportunity to adopt a new opex-based business model. In short, 5G will lower the barrier to implement video solutions, enabling its proliferation across multiple industries and sectors to drive operational efficiencies and value creation.

Q: What do you think are the ingredients that will make 5G a success?

As industries’ needs are diverse and the ecosystem landscape is fragmented, no single company has all the expertise, capabilities and solutions. A partnership approach is essential to make 5G a success. Market players such as service providers, hyperscalers, operational technology vendors, solutions providers and system integrators each bring respective strengths and a collaborative approach will make the biggest impact for value creation. Mainstream availability and affordability of 5G ecosystem such as sensors and end points will help to accelerate 5G implementation across industries and enterprises. In addition, cybersecurity is a cardinal requirement, and adopting a robust cybersecurity framework aligned to industry best practices and continuously updated is an important ingredient.

Q: Why does 5G pique your interest?

Frankly, it is no exaggeration to say that modern life as we know it will not exist without 4G. I mean, think about how dependent we are on our smartphones and how we take for granted the convenience and benefits that smartphone applications bring to us, whether it is for financial services and digital government services etc. In my view, 5G will make an even bigger impact. As our consumer lifestyle become more digital and connected, so too will our businesses and enterprises. Enterprises are starting to embark on this digital transformation journey to position themselves for new growth opportunities. We are living in unprecedented times, and I’m really excited to see 5G fulfilling its potential as one of the most defining technologies in this digital era.

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