One of the most important things to understand about 5G is that you're talking about so much more than just another marketing term.
Yes, it seems like every few years the telecom industry rolls out another buzzword — be it 3G or LTE or 4G and beyond — to tout newer equipment and faster speeds that are supposed to "bring people together like never before." But at the same time, the level of performance boost that 5G represents is significant — to the point where it doesn't happen very often at all.
In the not-too-distant future, low earth orbit (LEO) satellite-based connectivity, mesh networks and similar assets will be used to deliver 5G connectivity to areas that currently only have limited — if any — coverage. At that point, large volumes of connected devices will begin creating and sharing information with one another, essentially at all times.
Experts agree that peak 5G speeds are anticipated to be a massive 100 times faster than the current speed of 4G LTE networks. Not only that, but reduced latency will allow support for newer applications that leverage advanced concepts like the Internet of Things (otherwise known as the IoT for short) and artificial intelligence. But most importantly, the increased capacity that 5G networks will bring with them can minimize or even outright eliminate a lot of the issues we deal with presently, from load spikes that take place during major news events to spotty coverage and more.
All of this means exciting new things for consumers, yes — but it's also going to make a particularly big impact on not only a business's ability to successfully execute a digital transformation but on the rate at which that transformation will occur.
At its core, digital transformation is the process of leveraging emerging digital technologies to modify existing business processes or customer experiences, while also capitalizing on opportunities to create entirely new ones. In other words, it's a way for business leaders to re-imagine the way they currently use IT, intentionally disrupting things to make sure that their technology infrastructure is properly aligned with both their changing business needs and the evolving market requirements around them.
It's a misconception to assume that digital transformation is all about getting to a point where more things in your enterprise are digital. Far from it — it's simply empowering your ability to positively shift how you think, operate, learn and respond. It's putting you in a position to embrace change quickly for the benefit of your company and your customers alike.
As the name implies, this represents a major change for most businesses — but it's also a necessary one, too. These types of digital transformation efforts are usually undertaken in search of new business models and, at the very least, new revenue streams. They're also usually driven by changes in customer expectations around products and services as well.
Digital transformation has always been an important component of modern business, but it has become especially so during 2020 thanks to the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
According to one recent study, about 59% of IT decision-makers who responded to an IDG Research business impact survey said that pressures stemming from the pandemic were "accelerating their digital transformation efforts." Everyone knew at the beginning of the year that they would have to change to meet the demands of the future, it's just that nobody anticipated that this future would come along quite as quickly as it did.
Thankfully, 5G itself is arriving at roughly the same time — acting as an invaluable resource for enterprises in the throes of evolution, but one that has the potential to be so successful that they may just come out all the better on the other side because of it.
Remember that 5G offers predicted speeds of up to 10 Gbps per second, representing a significant increase over even the previous generation's technology. This is particularly relevant in terms of a company's digital transformation efforts because of the sheer volume of data that is being created, transferred and stored throughout this process.
Whenever you move from one platform to another, a certain amount of data transfer is always going to be required. But with 5G, files that normally would have taken minutes to transfer will now be completed in a matter of seconds. Every second that your IT employees aren't spending monitoring files that are uploading or downloading is a second that they can focus on those matters that truly need their attention, thus accelerating your digital transformation dramatically — albeit in a very literal way.
Another major advantage of 5G comes by way of its impressively low latency. For those unfamiliar, latency in networking is a measurement of how long a single data packet takes to go from its original source to its intended recipient and back again. 4G LTE networks had absolutely made some impressive gains to that end, but latency for newer 5G networks is anticipated to be as little as five milliseconds.
This has the potential to be absolutely invaluable to digital transformation efforts, as this low level of 5G latency makes it possible for things like faster-than-human visual processing. This means that regardless of how many remote devices you're trying to control or even where they're located, you can still do so in near real-time from any device on Earth with an active 5G connection. Up until now, this was one of the major limiting factors with regards to the Internet of Things — the devices themselves were sophisticated, but it still took a great deal of time to control them.
Not only that, but a lot of new applications will be developed that will enable machine-to-machine communication. At that point, you can tap into the full potential of faster-than-human processing because you're largely removing humans from the equation entirely.
But one of the most important ways in which 5G will accelerate digital transformation efforts comes by way of its enhanced capacity, something that ties into one of the most critical digital transformation services out there: the aforementioned Internet of Things.
5G can deliver up to 1,000 times the capacity of current 4G networks, offering support for literally hundreds or even thousands of devices that are all connected to one another, seamlessly communicating at all times. One of the biggest examples of just how important this is comes by way of the use of the IoT in terms of business process automation in something like a factory. If your average factory has thousands of sensors on hundreds of different machines at all times, you always know which pieces of equipment are functioning at peak efficiency and which ones aren't. You always know exactly when you need to perform maintenance and take a machine offline to minimize disruption as much as possible. If something isn't performing the way it should be, you don't just know that a problem has occurred — you also know WHY, allowing you to take proactive steps to stop a small issue today before it becomes a much bigger one tomorrow.
But once you know that the supply chain management process has been overhauled with business process automation, you also eliminate human error from the situation entirely. Everything is operating exactly as it should be WITHOUT human intervention, all so that your actual human employees can focus on those tasks that really need them.
Of course, that's just a single-use case. The Internet of Things can also be used to fuel and accelerate digital transformation services in other industries thanks to the real-time analytics it can help unlock.
Even your average business is already creating a massive amount of data on a daily basis — something that is only anticipated to grow as time goes on. According to one recent study, every person will generate roughly 1.7 megabytes of new information every second by the end of the year. More data has been created in the last two years than in all years combined up to that point. At a certain level, simply storing and managing that data becomes an enormous challenge for a company — to say nothing of how hard it becomes to actually extract the useful information inside that data just waiting to be uncovered.
Why is that important within the context of 5G and digital transformation services? To speak to the former, it's because 5G is about to cause data volumes to virtually explode, seemingly overnight. With regards to the latter, 95% of all businesses already cite the need to manage unstructured data as one of the major risk factors for their own digital transformation efforts, which is only going to get more important as time goes on.
Thankfully, 5G will also make it possible to embrace the types of business analytics solutions that organizations need to uncover the true story hidden inside all of that data. Predictive analytics, for example, can successfully predict future actions based on past trends. You could use your business's historical data to figure out what types of products your customers may be interested in based on what they've engaged with in the past, along with how likely they are to purchase from you again.
Descriptive analytics can be used to dive deeper into the current state of your business than ever before, showing you information about audience demographics, interests and even purchasing behavior.
Prescriptive analytics can even help show you the best course of action for any given situation that you find yourself in. You can take a look at how things are going seasonally, within the context of a product launch, or even year-over-year — all so that you can have access to the insight you need to make better and more informed decisions moving forward.
So if business analytics is an invaluable tool in terms of a successful digital transformation, 5G takes things to the next level. 5G not only allows you to create more relevant and insightful data that can be shared faster than ever, but it also enables you to leverage those analytics tools to uncover that insight faster than you could have ever thought possible. So you're not just making better data-driven decisions — you're making them quicker than you would have been able to even five years ago. At that point, you're capitalizing on every opportunity for improvement available to you, rather than being forced to watch some of them pass you by.
All of this can even help solve another one of the major pain points for most organizations going through digital transformations: staying on budget whenever possible. This is especially true for small companies, as budgets are usually tight and are carefully aligned to the scope of the transformation at the outset of the process. Therefore, using 5G-enabled business analytics allows you to maximize every dollar you're spending by getting to know your company better, anticipating the ever-changing needs of your customers and your industry, and bringing innovative ideas to your enterprise during a time when you desperately need them.
This isn't just how you execute a successful digital transformation — it's also how you build a legitimate competitive advantage for yourself in your industry that will serve you well for years to come.
As 5G carriers continue to expand coverage across 2021 and beyond, there will be a major, growing demand for real-time computation that depends on low latency at the end device. Everyone knows how important applications like industrial automation, virtual reality and even autonomous decision-making will be to the digital transformation process. But without high computation capabilities coupled with very low latency, getting to this position won't just be difficult. It will largely be impossible.
Thankfully, 5G solves all of these needs and more — all in a way that allows companies to embrace adaptive design, to adopt agile execution and to bring about the positive level of disruption necessary to stand out in a crowd. 5G has the potential to positively transform both businesses and entire industries in ways that we're still really only just beginning to understand... creating an exciting situation that many will be paying attention to moving forward.
At Tech Fabric, we specialize in digital transformation services with a particular focus on developing the types of web, mobile and cloud-based applications that our clients have come to depend on. As a Microsoft Gold Partner, we've leveraged our innovative blend of custom software development to support partners in just about every industry you can think of — from automotive to finance to retail, medical, supply chain management and beyond.
We pride ourselves on our ability to act as a true partner to your company in every sense of the word — one that is every bit as invested in the success of your digital transformation as you are yourself. But more than anything, we pledge to use our industry expertise, our technological know-how and your business sense to transform your company's digital ecosystem in the precise way you need when you need it the most.
If you'd like to find out more information about how 5G is poised to accelerate your digital transformation efforts in 2021 and beyond, or if you just have any additional questions about our custom software development services that you'd like to discuss with someone in a bit more detail, contact Tech Fabric.