CES 2019 and the 5G revolution

Running from 8th to 11th January, CES 2019 played host to almost 200,000 attendants, all browsing the latest tech produced by the world’s leading companies. Billed as the ‘global stage for innovation’, this year exhibitors presented new products and technologies across the entire consumer electronics industry, from immersive entertainment to smart devices.

Evolutions in television technology have not always hit the mark: 3D TV faded out of existence not too long ago. This year saw Samsung’s 219-inch new model and LG’s reveal of consumer ‘roll-up’ TVs, and we await to see their impact on the mainstream market.

One eye-catching announcement came from Procter and Gamble. Their Opté device makes blemishes and imperfections a thing of the past thanks to automatic and precise application of make-up: “photoshopping in real life”. P&G aim to release this at the beginning of 2020.

There was also the widely covered controversy concerning the award-winning sex toy for women. This was banned from the show on the grounds of it being an ‘immoral or obscene’ entry, despite a sex robot targeted at men being launched at a past CES.

Not surprisingly, the theme of smart environments and integration and connectivity of devices was highly prevalent at the show.

The competition between the likes of Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant, has elevated the level of integration within our homes in the last few years. Not too long ago, if you asked Siri for the weather she may have come back to you with last night’s football results, but now we’re able to control multiple aspects of our day-to-day lives without even moving off our sofa. CES 2019 has further demonstrated that our ultimate goal of a complete Internet of Things (IoT) is coming ever closer to fruition. 

There was no shortage of new developments for the smart home. Announcements included a toilet which enabled control of the seat’s temperature using your voice, and a video doorbell allowing you to shout at burglars from wherever you are around the world. LG proposed software which could make robot vacuums automatically deploy when its owner picks up another cleaning tool.

All of these integrated devices are likely to be powered by 5G, the next generation of mobile connectivity, which could see faster speeds and greater reliability than ever before. Utilising the virtual network architecture capability of network slicing will help us manage running all the IoT devices that we will inevitably have. This allows operators to split a physical network into multiple virtual networks, so that we can tailor networks to different devices’ requirements.

To give an idea of just how big the leap might be from current technology, 4G allows a full HD film to be downloaded in around 10 minutes; 5G will allow us to do so in 10 seconds.

Current mobile phones aren’t capable of utilising 5G, but some believe we could be using it by the end of 2019. 2020 could indeed be the ‘year of 5G’. O2 and Three have begun the move towards 5G in the UK with a collaborative effort of rolling out fibre cabling to connect cell sites and masts in London.

Autonomous cars will also require a 5G connection in order to stay constantly and reliably connected. Russian corporation Yandex debuted their technology on the busy streets of Las Vegas, demonstrating how close we are to seeing this in our everyday lives. With the route it took having been mapped out prior to the event, could taxis be the first application of self-driving cars? Will we soon be saying goodbye to Uber?

The abundance of these types of technologies will lead us into the age of the smart city. Beyond the home, 5G has the potential to transform the way our whole society functions. Management of traffic flow. Smart grids and intelligent lighting for energy efficiency. Augmented and virtual reality for holographs and displaying of data anywhere from our streets to our hospitals. 5G will support the production of up to £8.5 trillion worth of goods and services by 2035, according to estimates by Qualcomm.

Perhaps a smart city is best summarised by noting its capability of being reactionary; our surroundings will no longer simply be fixed canvases for us to paint on, but will move and evolve with us, adapting to our needs and challenges, helping us as we move into the future. Whilst this all might still sound quite ‘sci-fi make-believe’, the beginning of that future is not so far away at all.

Image Credit: JCT 600 (CC BY-SA 2.0)