Connected devices linked to the Internet of Things (IoT) — in association with 5G network technology — are now everywhere. But just wait until next-generation applications, such as artificial intelligence (AI), start running within these edge devices. Meanwhile, the low latency and higher data speeds of 5G and IoT will add a new real-time dimension to AI.
Consider an extended reality (XR) headset that not only provides a 3D view of the inside of an aircraft engine, but which also has on-board intelligence to point you to problem areas or to information on anomalies in that engine, which are immediately and automatically recognized and adjusted.
Chipmakers are already developing powerful yet energy-efficient processors — or “systems on a chip” — that can deliver AI processing within a small footprint device. For instance, Qualcomm just announced AI-capable Snapdragon chips that run on smartphones and PCs. Also on the horizon are a generation of NeuRRAM chips, developed at the University of California San Diego, which are capable of running sizeable AI algorithms on smaller devices.
Overall, the global number of connected IoT devices is projected to surpass 29 billion by 2027, which is more than 16.7 billion at the present time, a recent analysis from zScaler shows.
Now, 5G and IoT technologies are opening new doors to innovation within AI — and vice versa. AI “will be more effective when enabled with a local-level decision-making framework and with near real-time data,” says Arun Santhanam, vice president and head of telecommunications at Capgemini Americas. “5G low latency innovation will be key for enabling the outcome of real-time data coming from relatively inexpensive IoT solutions.”
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Most viable edge and AI use cases have been in the enterprise and IoT space, within industries such as healthcare and manufacturing, says Haifa El Ashkar, director of strategy of the telecommunications market and solutions at CSG. These companies “need to offer faster data transmission and real-time communication,” she says.
AI is also improving connectivity and has a dramatic impact on the reliability and efficiency of wireless networks, according to Milind Kulkarni, vice president and head of InterDigital’s Wireless Lab.
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While more centralized environments may provide computing power for immersive experiences, “they may be too far from where low-latency resources are located,” says Kulkarni. “So, to take advantage of the ultra-low latency that is one of the key benefits of 5G, edge computing plays a vital role by offering smaller amounts of storage and computation much closer to the device where it’s needed. In addition, edge computing can be customized to support specific use cases such as storing content for delivery of video on demand or running AI algorithms for fast decision making on incoming data.”
XR is an area where the capabilities of 5G are being pushed to the limit. “Currently there is a large amount of ongoing work within 3GPP that is focused on enhancing current networks to be more aware of and better support XR traffic,” says Kulkarni.
5G’s high speeds and low latency “will be required for industries to transition into the next stage of digital transformation,” says El Ashkar.