You may have heard about how 5G and big data are going to revolutionize our world. 5G technologies have the potential to enable many new big data applications that will substantially alter the way we live our lives. But what exactly are these technologies, and how will they affect us?
Mobile internet connectivity is always developing. The next big step is the fifth-generation (5G) wireless network. 5G promises substantially faster and more reliable connections. Experts predict a typical download speed over 5G will be around one gigabit per second (Gbps). 5G has a theoretical maximum speed of 10 Gbps, which is about 100 times more than the theoretical max for 4G. At peak 5G speed, you could download a two-hour movie in 3.6 seconds, as compared to six minutes at the top 4G speed. 5G will also bring reduced latency, meaning better responsiveness.
Carriers have already launched some preliminary 5G services, but we can expect to see true 5G networks starting in 2020. We’ll likely see the first significant 5G-enabled innovations, including some big data applications, a couple of years after that.
About Big Data
The term “big data” refers to the enormous amount of data we generate every day. Because of this scale of this data, we can mine it for information, analyze it to uncover patterns and use it machine learning applications.
Big data typically has specific components, called the Three Vs:
- Volume: There is a large volume of data.
- Variety: There is a wide variety of types of data.
- Velocity: The data gets processed at a high velocity.
Some people add other Vs, such as value, variability and veracity.
How 5G and Big Data Work Together
We create more than 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day. As we use more online services and more devices get connected to the internet, we create more and more data. In this way, the Internet of Things — the growing network of everyday items that can communicate over the internet — links to the concept of big data.
Managing these vast amounts of data requires powerful networks. 5G should help enable the continued growth of big data, the IoT and other technologies. As we increase the speed at which we can process data, we will unlock many more applications for these technologies.
Big data, powered by 5G, will be an essential facilitator of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, in which digital technologies will transform the way we work and live. In a connected factory, for example, machinery will have sensors that collect data on its performance. This data enables managers to identify pieces of equipment that aren’t functioning as efficiently as other machines. It may also alert them to maintenance needs so they can fix the issue before it causes major disruption, which can help facilities reduce energy use and emissions.
5G will also help enable other large-scale transformations, such as the creation of smart cities. Smart cities use IoT sensors and big data to improve the quality of life of their residents and visitors. For example, sensors placed near parking spots could send data over the internet about whether a spot is available or occupied. Drivers could then access this information using a mobile app. Self-driving cars could even use this information to drive to the nearest open parking spot automatically, which would reduce congestion and help make travel more efficient.
Smart energy grids are another transformative technology that relies on 5G and big data. Smart energy grids feature sensors throughout the system that enable operators to see exactly how much energy any given location is generating, and how much people are using. That helps them operate the grid more efficiently, quickly identify and fix outages and more easily integrate variable generation resources such as wind and solar.
Big data could also help make 5G networks better. Networks could potentially use the vast amounts of data that flow over them to improve the operation of the networks themselves and the applications that run on them. Using machine learning, they could even do this automatically. Organizations could also use big data analytics to detect and contain cybersecurity threats. In this way, operators could create an entirely self-managed system.
The Environmental Impact of 5G and Big Data
We’ve already discussed several ways in which digital technologies can help the environment. Collecting data on the energy grid, as well as at the level of individual machines, can help reduce energy use, thus lowering emissions. Big data and IoT technology can also benefit people who conduct environmental monitoring and research. IoT sensors can collect and transmit data about air quality, water quality, soil health and other indicators of the health of the environment. These sensors can collect data continuously and remotely, making data collection more economical and efficient. Big data analytics can also help us assess the environmental risk associated with climate change and other challenges.
All this technology, however, requires significant energy use. IoT devices consume energy, as do the data centers used to store all the information they create. If these systems run on electricity generated using fossil fuels, they could increase greenhouse gas emissions. For this reason, it’s essential to use more clean, renewable energy and invest in energy efficiency. Numerous tech companies, including Google, Facebook and Apple, have committed to using 100 percent renewable energy. To reduce the environmental impact of 5G and big data, it’s vital for smart device owners to use clean energy, too.
5G has incredible potential to transform our world. When combined with technologies like big data, it’s extraordinarily powerful. The next generation of wireless connectivity will enable many more big data applications that will improve our lives in many ways. While it will require large amounts of energy, it could also help protect the environment, especially if we increase our use of renewable, clean energy resources.