When 5G is combined with artificial intelligence and augmented reality, the result can be a powerful one-two punch for innovation, both technical- and business-focused. When designing systems or architectures for offices, factories, and homes of the future, the power of AI over 5G — or 5G enhanced by AI — cannot be ignored, industry experts point out.
First, there’s what 5G can do for AI.
“Scaling AI to reach its full potential is no trivial undertaking. To do so efficiently, it’s imperative for AI processing to be intelligently distributed between the cloud and edge devices,” writes Taesang Yoo, senior director of technology for Qualcomm, in a recent blog post. “That’s why we believe the future of AI is hybrid. AI computation is split where and when appropriate, to provide enhanced experiences and ensure efficient use of resources.”
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Then, there’s what AI can do for 5G. AI technologies will serve to “supercharge 5G use cases and amplify 5G’s native capabilities to deliver ultra-low latency, fast throughput, and massive device support,” says Will Townsend, vice president and principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy. “AI has the potential to improve security postures, business outcomes and improve network resiliency. Edge computing can provide analytics on data produced by objects in motion at creation points for real-time decisioning.”
It’s a symbiotic relationship between 5G and AI. Either way, it means interesting new use cases. As AI expands, “the cost of connectivity continues to decline,” says Olu Adegoke, global managing partner at Infosys Consulting. “5G’s distributed architecture, multi-access edge compute and private network capabilities are enabling ultra-reliable, low-latency use cases.” But AI on 5G is so much more than technical advancements. The convergence of 5G and AI “is not just about speed; it’s the first time we witness mobile broadband catering to the demands of next-gen activities,” says Anthony Goonetilleke, group president at Amdocs. “From extended reality to augment reality to generative AI, leveraging this connectivity foundation paves the way for transformative experiences. When these technologies converge, like AI accessing connectivity to redefine connected cars, it generates a new dimension of possibilities.”
The integration of ubiquitous broadband, edge, and hybrid cloud, along with innovation catalysts like eSIM, “forms a dynamic canvas for visionaries to create their imaginative solutions,” Goonetilleke adds. “I see these technologies like a kid going out into a Lego store and letting their imagination run wild.”
Central to 5G’s power “is its ability to amass vast troves of data from a multitude of connected devices,” says Marc Rohleder, vice president of technology strategy at Boldyn Networks. Combined with AI’s data-crunching capabilities, “5G unlocks avenues for data-driven applications, spanning manufacturing processes that maximize efficiency and precision, to smart cities optimizing urban life.”
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Increasing proximity and reduced round-trip latency within networks “enables the migration of intelligence from devices to a distributed cloud infrastructure and significantly reduces operations costs,” says Adegoke. At the same time, the user experience can be significantly improved, especially for use cases such as augmented reality and streaming, he adds.
“While 5G can transmit information quickly and at low latency, AI minimizes operational complexity by utilizing efficient algorithms to automate a wide range of processes — meaning more speed, efficiency, and cost-saving,” says Samer Tikoo, senior vice president and general manager at GlobalLogic, a Hitachi Group Company. “Edge computing brings the compute to the point of data creation and data consumption, rather than moving the data itself. This means there’s no transference of the data itself, increasing the security and safety.”
This makes the concept of elastic computing a reality, says Tikoo. “When you’re running a network in a cloud and you have flexibility in terms of compute power, you have the opportunity to respond to the market faster and not risk lagging behind.”
The powerful combination of 5G and AI means greater innovation opportunities — and some very interesting applications. Deploying AI applications at the edge with 5G “brings opportunities across industries including smart manufacturing, smart cities, media, retail logistics, and automated warehouses, among others,” says Tikoo. Here are some examples cited:
Drones: “5G enables commercial drones to be flown beyond visible line of sight with remote control stations and AR-enabled piloting for purposes such as rescue operations, thermal imaging, aerial inspections, surveys, tracking, and more,” says Adegoke.
Precision-controlled activities: Another example, Adegoke continues, is applying augmented reality “in conjunction with ultra-reliable, low-latency 5G networks enables remote surgery and patient care, precision-controlled construction, and mining.”
Sports and entertainment: The power of converged 5G and technologies also can make a difference in things more fun than mining and surgery. “In the realm of 5G innovation, sports and entertainment venues are undergoing a revolution,” says Boldyn Networks’ Rohleder. “Fans no longer want to be just observers, but active participants. The blend of augmented reality with real-time information overlays doesn’t just enhance the fan experience; it elevates it to an entirely new dimension of immersion and excitement.”
Wireless real-time video feeds from performers “sweep the audience into a whirlwind of sights and sounds, offering panoramic 360-degree views,” says Rohleder. “Every seat becomes the best seat in the house, regardless of fans’ actual location.”
Also: The search for a 5G killer app that’s ‘bigger than connectivity’
Digital twins: 5G with multi-access edge computing (MEC) also enables “digital twin capabilities for high-velocity applications such as windmills and manufacturing equipment,” Adegoke continues. This enables “training, condition-based maintenance, and problem resolution while filtering most of the data at the edge without flooding the enterprise with insignificant data,” he points out.
Autonomous manufacturing and mining: These, says Townsend, “are excellent examples of 5G’s ability to enable tactile operations, improve efficiency and ensure worker safety through automation. More broadly, network slicing enabled by 5G standalone public and private network deployments (marrying 5G core and RAN) will unlock innovative use cases by tailoring latency and throughput to discrete workloads and applications.”
Autonomous driving: “We are working on AI algorithms that detect humans, cars, and other objects on the road to develop collision avoidance systems that makes autonomous driving safer,” says Tikoo. “This is a perfect example of leveraging the 5G multi-access edge compute, where you need compute power at the edge and make real-time decisions in a low latency environment.”
Smart manufacturing: “A combination of computer vision, edge compute and AI is improving defect detection, enhancing productivity and worker safety,” says Tikoo. “Manufacturing setups leverage high fidelity cameras to continuously and securely stream video data to a 5G MEC environment for further analysis using AI/ML and provide real-time feedback to a production line. This enables making quick corrections, improving quality, and enhancing productivity.”
Education: “One striking instance is revolutionizing education. Imagine medical students immersed in full VR environments, experiencing surgeries as if they were truly present,” says Goonetilleke. “This redefines the learning landscape. Industry pioneers like Apple are on the verge of making these experiences effortless. Moreover, in healthcare, remote surgeries guided by experts from afar, real-time computer vision for personalized services, AR-assisted field support, and automated quality control in manufacturing showcase the transformative potential of 5G.