As 2019 starts, we are on the cusp of a new wave of high-tech change and innovation. That change will be driven by the rollout of 5G alongside complementary technologies like the Internet of Things, improved artificial intelligence and machine learning. We’ve forecast some of what we think will be the biggest technology trends in 2019, ones that thrive on connectivity.
Vehicle sharing and autonomous cars: Rentable E-scooters will appear in more Australian cities during 2019 making it easy for people to get around – but these services will need to be tracked as they move around to prevent theft and to help business owners operate efficiently. The Cat M and NB-IoT network technologies being used are evolving directly into 5G technologies, and suit the long battery life, deep coverage and meagre data use aspects of this application. E-scooter sharing service Lime has already started operating in Australia.
As we predicted at the start of 2018, autonomous vehicles are enjoying plenty of research and validation both on and off public roads – but these technologies require a huge amount of data to make the decisions that human drivers handle without thinking, and all cars that have access to this data are able to learn from it. Sharing this data in real-time requires high speed, pervasive connectivity – a perfect use case for the extra capacity and performance of 5G services. Autonomous cars alone have the potential to massively disrupt the ‘own to drive’ model of car ownership that has been popular since the invention of the automobile.
‘Pop up’ connected business technology: In 2019, we will see an increasing number of fast 4G and 5G connected devices that will allow businesses to start up without waiting for a wired internet connection or other similar services. Similarly, software as a service (SaaS) and other subscription offerings like Office 365 let businesses spin up digital assets quickly, and easy out-of-the-box payment processing services mean a simple enterprise can start making money quickly. The impact for consumers like you and I may be in greater choice, as it lowers the barrier to entry for new businesses to pop up and test a business concept, or an established business to test out a new location.
Augmented world: Still in their nascent stages, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) have huge potential. Like voice control, both provide a different way for users to interact with technology. Wireless headsets are the ‘holy grail’, and as they move out of the games room, they will require high-speed and reliable mobile connectivity to deliver immersive experiences. In the same way that videoconferencing has made remote working easier for us, AR and VR could revolutionise skills training. As well as augmenting our eyes, “hearables” will augment our ears, and these new wearable devices will allow us to listen to both the world around us as well as modify it, removing sounds or adding music and computer speech. The ‘hearables’ ability to unintrusively mix sound sources will also allow people to continually stream music throughout a day, even while for example interacting with people. This type of constant streaming will benefit from the higher capacities of 5G networks.
Game streaming: ‘Game streaming’ usually conjures up images of professional players on video streaming services like Twitch, but imagine using your laptop to play the latest games using the cloud, not just watch them. There’s a new breed of streaming service on the way that lets low-powered desktop and laptop computers play visually rich video games – and even other 3D-accelerated services like Photoshop – by running computing processes and graphics on a powerful server in a data centre, then ‘streaming’ the resulting video output over the internet to your PC. The key to this is fast and low-latency networks – a perfect application for 5G. We may even see this kind of cloud computing come to smartphone gaming.
Smart city cameras: The widespread high-speed connectivity and support for a massive number of devices transmitting up to the cloud simultaneously that 5G and specialised mobile technology like Cat M and NB-IoT make possible will also allow our cities and towns to get smarter. Where traffic intersections detect cars using sensors embedded in tarmac, but don’t detect waiting pedestrians automatically, imagine a city where the number of pedestrians needing to cross a road affects the speed at which traffic lights operate. If you extrapolate that one example to other ways in which smart cameras can be used, like detecting commuter numbers to better influence public transport development, an entire new world of possibilities – powered by 5G – is revealed.
5G and foldable phones: There are more than a few 5G phones on the horizon, and 2019 looks to be the year that they will start filtering out of research and development laboratories into customers’ hands. 5G is faster than the current leading 4G standard, but also allows for many more devices to stream HD video at the same time – especially important when we’re seeing a consistent increase in the number of devices on our networks, even before any of the new use cases for 5G and complementary technology like the Internet of Things have been explored. We’re also seeing a few prototypes and rumours of foldable touchscreen smartphones, with the most straightforward concept being a dual-screen ‘folio’ that only takes up the space of a regular smartphone, with twice the display real estate and the potential for new apps and functions to be developed, and the increased number of pixels will drive even more demand for 5G bandwidth.