More often than not, the conversation about the Internet of Things is limited to the “Things”: smart watches, smart cars, or smart fridges just to name a few. We’re constantly making novelty items the focus of the discussion.
Rather than think about smart cars, we should also be thinking about connectivity, ultra-reliable networks, and low latency. BMW, Mercedes or Google might come up with the next generation of connected cars, but improvements over current mobile broadband services will be needed to enable fully autonomous vehicles.
While still largely a concept for now, 5G mobile networks could be vital in providing the mission-critical reliability of deploying driverless cars onto the streets. First, 5G could significantly boost data download speeds from one gigabit per second to 10Gbps. Then, 5G will provide ultra-low latency, the time it takes one device to send a packet of data to another device. Currently with 4G, the latency rate is around 50 milliseconds, but 5G will reduce that to about one millisecond. Finally, part of the promise behind 5G is to provide the capacity to accommodate billions of connection devices, and the ability to assign bandwidth depending on the needs of the application and user.
Imagine, for example, a scenario where you might be cruising in your driverless car when a crash has just occurred up the road but you still don’t know about it. With 5G, sensors placed along the road would be able to instantly relay that information back to your car, so it could brake earlier and avoid another accident. This is where having low latency is important. In this particular scenario, even the smartest vehicle would be clueless without an ultra-fast and reliable network. Clearly, it’s not just about the “Things”.