Imagine participating in a meeting where 3-D holograms share ideas in real-time on a digital board, increasing collaboration between remote teams. A grocery store with intelligent shelves that automatically detect low product inventories and send replacement orders to the customer. This eliminates the need for employees. You can also wear an augmented reality headset to receive real-time, guided instructions about how to fix a piece of machinery at any time of the day.
You may soon no longer need to imagine. 5G, the fifth and most recent generation of cellular wireless networks, has the potential to unlock these capabilities and many more in the workplace.
Accenture’s global network practice leader, Amol Phadke (U.K.), says it’s more than just another ‘G’ like previous generations. It has the potential to disrupt the way we live and work.
The benefits to consumers have been the focus of most 5G buzz. You can now download a full-length movie to your smartphone in seconds instead of taking several minutes. An app allows you to open your trash can! There are also significant implications for the workplace. Increased speeds and more excellent data will lead to higher efficiency. Collaboration, recruiting, and remote work are likely to be affected.
It remains to be determined when the 5G network will be available for general use. Services are currently only available in a few markets, and not all devices can connect to the 5G network. Although the 5G rollout will continue for several years and notable developments like driverless cars could take up to a decade, analysts believe 2020 will be the year this technology gains traction.
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Many countries, including the U.S. and Japan, South Korea, South Korea, and China, are working hard to build infrastructure for 5G. Although some new towers are being built, most of these additions are small-cell sites that attach to utility poles and lampposts. These cells create network density which is critical for 5G capabilities.
The new network promises faster data transfer rates, lower latency, and more capacity. The new 5G network will also be more reliable, faster, and powerful than its predecessors.
“The fastest change will be made by the speed and quality of the connection,” Carsten Schaefer, founder, and CEO, of crowdy.ai. This in-German startup uses artificial intelligence to give online users real-time information about the product or website being viewed. It will be much easier to work, given how fast the Internet connections are.
Some estimates suggest that 5G technology will be 100 times faster than 4G networks in the future, as it will process data in gigabits rather than megabits per second.
5G will be able to support far more applications. Given the expected exponential growth in connected devices to the Internet (often called the Internet of things or IoT), 5G will have to be able to support more applications. IHS Markit, a London-based data and information service provider, predicts that worldwide connected devices will increase from 27 billion in 2017 to 125 billion by 2030.
These devices can collect, analyze, and sometimes even act upon massive amounts of data.
Kevin Linehan, vice president in the Office of Chief Technology Officer at CommScope (a Hickory, N.C.-based manufacturer of telecommunications equipment), explains that the IoT will see many sensors, meters, and other machines connect to the Internet to increase value and efficiency.
Manufacturing equipment, for example, will be able to detect any malfunctions in advance, which will reduce downtime and productivity for workers. Smart shelves could be installed in retail stores to monitor stock levels and place orders with suppliers if products are low. This would free up staff from performing routine tasks.
Believe The Hype
Industry insiders claim that 5G networks will be revolutionary, just like the printing press, automobile, and electricity. However, not all agree.
Shrihari Pandit is the CEO of Stealth Communications. Stealth Communications provides gigabit fiber internet for businesses in New York City. He believes Wi-Fi will remain the preferred wireless option for both home and work when paired with a wireline connection.
Many executives in technology and business remain skeptical about 5G’s potential. Accenture’s global survey last year found that 53 percent of 1,800 executives believe 5G will allow them to do things they couldn’t do with 4G. While only 37% of respondents said that 5G would bring about a significant shift in speed or capacity, a larger number expect a more radical change.
Take states that the survey’s most surprising finding was that many technologies and business executives underestimate the disruptive potential of 5G technology. Much work must be done to educate both I.T. and business leaders about 5G technology. It is revolutionizing the world, not an evolution.
AT&T provides such education through roadshows and other avenues to its enterprise customers. Robert Boyanovsky is vice president of enterprise mobility for AT&T Business in Dallas. “We begin by educating them about 5G technology, then we explain how 5G is changing business landscapes and the applications for 5G within various industries,” he said.
Industry sectors most likely to be affected by 5G are telecommunications and health care.
Remote work will likely be the most significant winner in the workplace if 5G fulfills its promises. Both employees and employers will be benefited.
Technological advances have made telecommuting a more popular option for knowledge workers over the past two decades. Remote work requires high-speed internet access. This is why remote work has often been restricted to co-working spaces or home offices. This will change with 5G’s increased speed and reliability. Workers can work anywhere they like, at home, in the park, or on a train. This is for more than just knowledge workers. Remote work will be more accessible for blue-collar workers and those working in the service industry. Factory workers can inspect and monitor system performance remotely, while health care professionals can monitor patients’ health using wearable devices.
Remote workers will lead to more remote meetings. This may surprise those who have experienced videoconferences where the picture freezes and lag times can make it challenging to communicate clearly. Remember to take your noise-canceling headset off.
Deepu Prakash (senior vice president of process and technology innovation, Fingent), a New York City-based tech company, stated that videoconferences would become more efficient with 5G’s implementation.
Prakash says that faster speeds and more bandwidth will lead to better video quality and fewer dropped connections in the short term. In the long term, virtual meetings and other tools will be possible with 5G-powered technology. Employees can be at home or elsewhere, but it will feel more like sitting around a table with other participants than on a screen.
Prakash also mentions that “holographic calls” is another example of a 3-D projection being used with 5G. Participants separated by geographical boundaries would be represented as avatars to the other attendees and could move around the virtual workspace to collaborate with colleagues or on a whiteboard.
Some companies may reduce their office space or transition to completely virtual workplaces due to the rise of remote work. Why pay for building workers don’t use?
Remote work will become more common in 5G. This will impact talent acquisition and job search practices. Employers will be able to apply for jobs that are not located near them, and employers will be able to expand their recruitment areas.
Eric Hanson, vice president of market intelligence at Fuze (Boston-based cloud communications and collaboration platform), says this will be especially beneficial to companies in secondary cities. In an article for TechRadar.com, Hanson wrote that organizations could hire the best worker regardless of where they are based.
In addition, job training–and even job previews and “auditions”–provided via virtual reality (V.R.) or augmented reality (A.R.) will become more common. These environments are ideal for training employees in safety-sensitive tasks like utility work and preparing them for high-stress situations like store robberies. These environments can also assess how candidates will react to certain situations. This helps to make better hiring decisions.
Prakash says that although V.R. and A.R. have been used in some companies, data-intensive applications still need to reach their full potential. He says that V.R. training will be smoother and more efficient with 5G’s faster bandwidth and speed. AR-based education will also be more efficient and smoother. These improvements will result in greater adoption, as well as decreasing costs.
Boyanovsky believes that enhanced V.R. and A.R. capabilities can also lead to improved performance on the job. An AR headset could allow workers to view real-time instructions overlaid on their line of sight about fixing a piece of machinery. Imagine a less skilled worker connected to an experienced mentor at a distant headquarters. They can receive 3-D virtual training and complete their job without traveling.
Retraining the Workforce
According to IHS Markit, 5G technology will not only create new jobs but will also lead to eliminating others.
It has been a recent phenomenon for jobs to be replaced by new technology. Just ask those laid off in customer service or manufacturing over the past few years. However, some occupations could be at risk from the new technology. Millions of taxi, truck, and bus drivers across the globe could be unemployed if self-driving cars eventually become masse.
The 5G jobs will only be able to replace the ones that were lost in one trade. With further education, bus drivers can jump to a job as a robot operators. Additionally, 5G will most likely create new jobs in new industries that require skills that aren’t currently available.
Take states that “new skills will be required.” This will include both new recruitment and the ability to retrain employees.
Many companies offer programs that teach employees skills in new fields. For instance, Amazon recently announced that it would invest $700 million in reskilling 100,000 employees in machine learning and robots.
Security and other concerns
5G presents several challenges, including job losses and growing skills gaps. Cybersecurity is another.
Many believe that 5G will offer greater security than the existing networks. “5G will make interactive devices safer. “No question,” Chris McGugan is chief technology strategist at Avaya in Santa Clara, Calif., specializing in business communication.
However, he acknowledges that almost invisible sensors that automatically collect and decide when to distribute information can raise privacy concerns and make people uncomfortable.
Some others point out that 5G’s good qualities make it more vulnerable. Hackers have more chances to cause damage if there are more file transfers and connected devices. More severe breaches are possible due to the increasing interconnectivity between devices.
Employers must ensure that appropriate safeguards are in place as more workers conduct business via 5G networks.
Baskaran Ambalavanan (SHRM-SCP), the principal consultant at Hila Solutions LLC in Irvine, Calif., a technology advisory firm, stated that technology presents enormous risks and cybervulnerabilities.
Ambalavanan and Stealth Communications’ Pandit also caution businesses that 5G needs to be thoroughly vetted for potential health effects. (The Federal Communications Commission believes that 5G is safe for health and that current radio frequency exposure limits are adequate.
Then there are the expenses.
Accenture’s survey found that up-front investment was the most significant barrier to 5G adoption, as cited by 36% of respondents. Businesses will also need to train workers in 5G-enabled technologies and upgrade and replace devices.
Ambalavanan admits upfront costs are genuine. However, he believes starting early is better than waiting to catch up with 5G usage.
Take suggests that companies take 5G implementation one step at a while. Instead of trying to do it all at once, Phadke suggests that companies focus on low-cost changes that provide a quick return and then invest the savings in subsequent initiatives. He says it’s essential to examine legacy environments and determine if any can be decommissioned to make 5G investments.
Some others point out that 5G is more efficient than the existing networks and will lower overall costs once initial expenses have been paid. McGugan claims that 5G will increase the battery life of devices.
Phadke believes that 5G’s potential is still a possibility for some. He notes that “any new technology is met avec some skepticism.” “The uncertainty is right now because 5G technology is new. But the early movers will show other business leaders that 5G has great potential.”