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The plans for 5G to power the internet of things

By Ken Kaplan, Intel iQ Editor-At-Large

Talk about future wireless networks is swirling ahead of Mobile World Congress. Enough so that it’s sucking many of us into believing that 5G networks could feed all of our internet device needs.

By all means keep loving 4G, because it will continue to evolve and become more readily available for many years ahead. But for those intrigued by inceptions, now is the time to tune into industry leaders from around the world as they hammer out standards for 5G networks, which are projected to switch on around 2020 or sooner if South Korea demonstrates it in 2018 when they host the next Winter Olympics.

To evolve beyond 4G, intelligence, communication capabilities, and processing power will need to be diffused across networks and mobile devices, empowering even the smallest of connected devices to do heavy computational tasks and run rich content and services. That’s according to Asha Keddy, general manager of mobile standards for advance tech at Intel, who has attended Mobile World Congress for the past four years and will be speaking on a panel at this year’s event.

Keddy describes 5G as the first network designed to be scalable, versatile, and energy smart for the hyper-connected internet of everything world.

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“These next-generation networks and standards will need to solve a more complex challenge of combining communications and computing together so intelligence is at your fingertips and available to the machines that make up the internet of things,” said Keddy, who is helping Intel work on technologies designed for the network core, network edge, access network, and device layers to enable it.

Last year, Cisco, Intel Labs, and Verizon, in a joint wireless network research project, revealed a novel set of neuroscience-based algorithms that adapt video quality to the demands of the human eye, hinting that future wireless networks would have built in human intelligence.

Looking back, Keddy said that every G is run through about a 10 year cycle before a new generation supersedes it.

“The 2G networks were designed for voice, 3G for voice and data, and 4G for broadband internet experiences. With 5G, we’ll see computing capabilities getting fused with communications everywhere, so trillions of things like wearable devices don’t have to worry about computing power because network can do any processing needed.”

Did she just say that 5G networks will bring computer processing to devices that need it?

“Yes, a wearable device could connect to other devices, and this could lead to new kinds of experiences,” she said.

These 5G networks will be faster but also a lot smarter. Devices will need to become smarter, too, as they will act as networking nodes rather than just terminals. Keddy said that’s why Intel is working on technologies for the core, edge, and access points of these networks as well as what’s required for devices to take full advantage of 5G networks.

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With 5G, computing power and information will feel like they’re following you around. Wearables, smartphones, tablets, and other devices with sensors that are location and context aware will work together with apps and services you use. Keddy said that with all of these things working together, they might bring augmented experiences to real life.

“You might have a meeting with someone on your calendar, and a few minutes prior, your device might share some data about that person by quickly sending you content cached nearby in the cloud,” she said.

She describes how 5G networks will use separate planes that are overlaid and beneath the network, often utilizing WiFi, to ensure energy efficiency while delivering proximity or location-based services tied to smartphones, wearables, and other sensing devices.

“There will be an underlay network with computing and communications, so not everything needs to go through backhaul because lots of capabilities will be available close to where it’s needed.”

Keddy said that from wearables to internet connected things such as washing machines, smart meters, traffic cameras, and even trees with tiny sensors could be always transmitting data that could be analyzed quickly to help you make decisions where and when it matters.

“Even wireless charging will be integrated to help keep devices running, so building energy efficiencies into 5G networks is essential,” she said.

This article was produced by Intel and not by the Quartz editorial staff.

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