Connected devices are now ubiquitous thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT) and 5G network technology. However, the true potential of these devices will be unleashed when they start running artificial intelligence (AI) applications. The combination of 5G, IoT, and AI will bring real-time capabilities to a new level. Imagine wearing an extended reality (XR) headset that not only provides a 3D view of the inside of an aircraft engine but also has on-board intelligence to identify and address any issues or anomalies in real-time. This is just one example of how AI can revolutionize various industries.
Chipmakers are already developing processors, such as Qualcomm’s AI-capable Snapdragon chips, that can deliver AI processing within small devices like smartphones and PCs. Additionally, the University of California San Diego has developed NeuRRAM chips, which can run large AI algorithms on smaller devices. These advancements in hardware will enable AI to be integrated into a wide range of IoT devices.
According to a recent analysis by zScaler, the number of connected IoT devices worldwide is projected to exceed 29 billion by 2027, compared to the current 16.7 billion. The report highlights that while consumer devices are common, business-oriented IoT devices generate the most transactions. Manufacturing and retail devices account for over 50% of transactions, indicating their widespread adoption and critical role in these sectors. Enterprise, home automation, and entertainment devices generate the highest counts of plaintext transactions.
The convergence of 5G, IoT, and AI is opening up new opportunities for innovation. Arun Santhanam, Vice President and Head of Telecommunications at Capgemini Americas, believes that AI will be more effective when combined with a local-level decision-making framework and near real-time data. The low latency capabilities of 5G will enable real-time data processing from inexpensive IoT solutions, making AI more powerful.
Most of the viable edge and AI use cases have been observed in the enterprise and IoT space, particularly in industries like healthcare and manufacturing. Haifa El Ashkar, Director of Strategy of the Telecommunications Market and Solutions at CSG, emphasizes the need for faster data transmission and real-time communication in these sectors. The lower latency and faster processing capabilities of 5G, coupled with edge architectures, are essential for applications that require quick decision-making and responsiveness.
In healthcare, AI-edge-supported medical devices like laparoscopes allow surgeons to leverage real-time insights and make faster decisions. For example, they can identify anomalies or detect bleeding in real-time, potentially saving lives. Without 5G, these industries would not be able to tap into edge networks and offer critical IoT services.
The proliferation of AI-enabled applications and services is amplifying the power of 5G edge applications. Combining the low latency of 5G networks with AI capabilities at the edge enables enterprises to access real-time decision-making. With less time needed for data to travel back and forth between devices and data centers, AI algorithms running on edge devices can provide real-time insights and actions, improving response time and increasing the availability of valuable data.
AI also enhances connectivity by improving the reliability and efficiency of wireless networks. Milind Kulkarni, Vice President and Head of InterDigital’s Wireless Lab, explains that the combination of 5G, cloud, and edge computing is crucial for empowering immersive experiences and developing connected ecosystems. Innovations in 5G and computing capabilities are making these experiences a reality.
While centralized environments like the cloud and data centers provide computing power for immersive experiences, they may be too far from low-latency resources. This is where edge computing comes into play, offering smaller amounts of storage and computation closer to the device where it’s needed. Edge computing can be customized to support specific use cases, such as storing content for video on demand or running AI algorithms for fast decision-making.
XR is an area where the capabilities of 5G are being pushed to the limit. Ongoing work within 3GPP is focused on enhancing current networks to better support XR traffic. XR challenges 5G in terms of latency, data rates, efficient video coding, and network architecture. Edge computing plays a vital role in enabling XR experiences by leveraging the benefits of 5G.
The high speeds and low latency of 5G will be crucial for industries to transition into the next stage of digital transformation. Supply chain, healthcare, and manufacturing industries, in particular, rely on AI-infused and connected devices for their daily operations. The combination of 5G, IoT, and AI will enable these industries to thrive in the digital age.