5G’s potential shines amidst COVID-19 pandemic
The coronavirus outbreak is proving something of a catalyst for 5G innovation, especially in China, with operators and enterprises working closely with one another to help alleviate the burden on the nation’s infrastructure.
Medical applications of 5G have long been some of the most highly anticipated possibilities with the new technology. Perhaps the least complex but the most impactful, is its potential improvements to telemedicine. Low latency, consistent, high-quality video streaming allows medical personnel to accurately assess patients remotely, greatly improving regional access to medical advice; during the coronavirus outbreak, this allowed medics outside of the locked-down epicentre Wuhan to identify CT and X-ray images, to help relieve the diagnostic burden on the local physicians. This of course also reduced the number of people being brought into contact with the disease, with regards to both the remote medical personnel, as well as high-risk patients with chronic illnesses who would have otherwise needed to visit the hospital for diagnosis and treatment.
5G is also facilitating a new wave of medical robotics innovation, with robots delivering drugs, checking patients’ temperature, delivering advice, and disinfecting rooms within hospitals, once again reducing the need for human exposure. Smart hospitals are being developed, where 5G-powered AI track the movement of both patients and staff, efficiently redirecting carers to where they are needed most.
Beyond the medical crisis, the preventative quarantine is itself causing an unprecedented shake up across many sectors, but here too 5G has an opportunity to shine.
The next-generation technology is helping to alleviate the stress of mass home schooling, with a host of new solutions being released to help students feel immersed in their remote classroom. Emerging 5G technologies, like virtual and augmented reality, and holography, will give children an interactive experience, simulating (and in many cases, improving on) the hands-on learning experience they would have received in school.
Meanwhile, in industry, automation enabled by AI and 5G is helping factories run on a skeleton crew, with many complex devices now able to be operated remotely. These so-called smart factories can self-optimise their performance, adapting and adjusting its processes to effectively automate the production process.
The coronavirus pandemic is a generation-defining event, sure to change many of the paradigms of our daily life. From the handshakes to office work, we are coming to re-evaluate what we perceive as normal, but it is also forcing us to reappraise how we use technology. Whether or not this year can truly claim to be the ‘year of 5G’, as so many predicted, remains to be seen, but the new necessities posed by the coronavirus outbreak have undeniably opened the door for 5G technologies to mature at a blistering pace.
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