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How 5G Will (Eventually) Change Your Life

5G is here, according to Qualcomm Inc. President Cristiano Amon. At least the technology is.

“2020 will be the year that 5G scales,” Amon told an assembly at CES 2020. “We are very happy to see that the industry has progressed so that today – even if you want to use it with 4G while waiting for base stations to be built—the best 4G phone on the market today is 5G.”

5G, CES 2020,
Molly Wood, senior editor for Marketplace Tech, interviews Qualcomm’s Cristiano Amon

Consumers can be forgiven if they haven’t noticed the change. The infrastructure that delivers long-awaited gigabit speeds, low latency and unlimited data hasn’t been built yet.

The transition is starting to happen — operators are deploying small-scale 5G networks the U.S., China, Korea, Japan and Australia. “The network is moving from pilots to initial launches in metropolitan areas,” Amon said. “I think it’s fair to say in 2020 you are going to see 5G in most major cities in the U.S. We are now the process of building coverage.”

Qualcomm’s San Diego campus and its surrounding neighborhood has 5G, he noted.

“What’s really happening – what’s pacing the scale of coverage – is 5G requires more sites and more towers,” Amon explained. “The situation, especially in the United States, is operators have to negotiate municipality by municipality – sometimes neighborhood by neighborhood — how to get new sites. It takes a very short time to deploy a base station – it takes a very long time to get new sites.”

Ironically, the same public that’s impatient for 5G doesn’t like sprawling towers and power-sucking industrial buildings in their backyard. 5G requires a dense infrastructure.

“On one hand, people say they want 5G and ‘where is my 5G, but I don’t want sites in my neighborhood,’” Amon said. “The two things are not compatible.”

Local politics aside, the 5G build-out is taking place alongside 4G. The change will be gradual.

“The first thing [consumers] are going to see is you have much higher speeds – an order of magnitude increase – and lower latency,” said Amon. “Some of the services you use every day will be much better.” Similar to 4G’s impact on streaming music, video will be the game changer – literally — for 5G.

5G will be the main platform for video distribution, Amon explained. “You will have a reliable connection to view news and sports and [5G] will finally deliver on user-content generation. Everyone will become a broadcaster because you have the speed to upload high-quality video to the cloud.” Microsoft and Google are predicting mainstream gaming will move away from consoles and on to smart phones. “Gaming will become a thing of the mobile industry,” Amon said.

Phones will remain 5G’s preferred delivery system. Qualcomm foresees companion devices springing up for a wide range of applications. “Today we know, even with some of the chips we are making, the limitation is the size of the screen. We have the processing power, and with the power of the hyperscale cloud, you can do almost anything. The only limitation is still the size of the screen.”

Wearable technology bridges those gaps. Device makers envision eyeglass-sized screens containing cameras, AR and facial-recognition capability. “I like to describe it as, you walk into a meeting and with facial recognition, you go immediately to the cloud and scan social media networks to get information on all the people you’re going to meet,” Amon said.

The automotive industry will see the biggest transformation with the advent of 5G. “This will range from upgrading your fundamental navigation system and ADAS as the car is connected to other cars and pedestrians and the cloud,” Amon explained. “You can populate a map with the location of all these things and how they move or how fast they move and use AI to make predictions. This is going to significantly upgrade ADAS and autonomy.”

Consumer demand – and investment – will accelerate the infrastructure  build-out, Amon suggested.  “The elevator pitch on what 5G  does –  connecting whatever device you have, phone to cars to the IoT —is based on technology that has a very wide pipeline that connects to the cloud 100%  of the time. No matter what devices you have, you can connect two systems and have unlimited storage and unlimited data.”

5G is no longer the exclusive technology of the mobile industry, he concluded. “It’s part of the automotive conversation, it’s part of the IoT conversation, it’s part of the computing conversation. We have to count on all those companies sharing those visions. We are just at the beginning of this great transition.”

Why CES 2020 Cares About the Supply Chain

By Barbara Jorgensen

The supply chain is one of those things that nobody cares about until something goes wrong. Then it’s everybody’s problem.

Remember the iPhone 8? Production was delayed because of problems with OLED screens, which weren’t even manufactured by Apple. Consumers were incensed, Apple was red-faced, and the supply chain took center stage.

Unfortunately, disaster is the main driver of supply-chain innovation. Resilience — the ability to shift all or part of a supply chain as needed— is mitigating disruption. Many of the technologies showcased at CES 2020 are key enablers of resilience, an expert panel told the audience.

For example, the American Logistics Aid Network (ALAN), which provides supply-chain assistance to disaster relief organizations, uses simulation to prepare for catastrophes, said executive director Kathy Fulton. High-risk areas such as Puerto Rico are plotted on networks as digital twins. Simulated hurricanes or earthquakes then strike the region. If a virtual aid station is destroyed by the event, alternative locations are immediately identified.

“There’s no such thing as shipping something from Point A to Point B,” said Fulton. “The supply chain is now a network.” Organizations should anticipate the loss of a supplier or a physical facility and have alternative plans in the works.

(Source: CES 2020)

The supply chain’s sphere of influence ranges from individual package delivery to materials flow into factories. But customer-facing organizations are on the front line when something goes wrong.

“We face mini-disasters every day,” said Robin Hensley, vice president for operations technology at UPS. “We call it weather.”

UPS has developed automated sorting centers that can be moved in the event of fires, floods, or other disruption. These centers can be programmed to sort for a specific zip code regardless of location. The process is largely transparent to customers, Hensley said.

Data analytics is the underpinning of many resilience efforts, panelists said. “We have lots of data that is meaningless unless it is used for insight,” Fulton said. “So we use it to improve efficiency, plan routes, or move people and equipment. We can make decisions before a disaster strikes.”

Then there are the gadgets. UPS is already using delivery drones, said Hensley — some of which are FAA-certified. “We are mostly using them on massive campuses, where it could take a half-hour to drive to your destination,” she explained. Drones deliver medical samples that need to be turned around quickly. UPS is also partnering with CVS to deliver medication to individuals.

Tracking technology has become so precise that ALAN uses RFID, electronic barcodes, and other types of tags to ensure that medicine, water, and other aid reaches intended destinations. These supplies are often “hijacked” after they arrive at a distribution hub, Fulton explained. ALAN can pinpoint whether or not medication reaches the right individual. The frequency of lost shipments has been reduced and problematic distribution centers identified.

Even wayward deliveries are improving UPS’s supply chain, Hensley said. UPS uses digital package twins to follow a delivery’s movement. Sometimes, packages head in the wrong direction or even backtrack on their delivery routes.

“We want to know what the heck is happening with those packages,” Hensley said. “So we collect data, analyze it, and plot the best route for delivery. It cuts a lot of time and waste out of the process.”

Consumer items themselves are part of supply-chain resilience efforts. During power outages, Fulton said, phone services are unavailable, but texting services are available. “We use that to get the word out — warning people of impending danger or letting them know where aid services are available,” she said, adding that cities are increasingly moving to 911 text alerts.

UPS has created “pop up” sorting centers that are used during holidays and disasters. Workers use small scanners in these temporary hubs while an earpiece feeds them sorting instructions.

Resilient supply chains anticipate disruption no matter the cause, according to panelists. “Ultimately, the destination is human,” said Hensley.

CES Tech Trends: Prepare for the ‘Intelligence of Things’

By Barb Jorgensen

The Internet of Things (IoT) is already passé at CES 2020. There’s a new IoT in town — the Intelligence of Things—that will drive consumer and industrial innovation well into the next decade,  said Steve Koenig, vice president for the Consumer Technology Association.

This is the decade where smart homes, electric vehicles and telemedicine will hit their stride, Koenig said in his CES 2020 preview. “We’ve ticked the device-connectivity boxes,” he explained. The next 10 years will be about intelligent connectivity and devices that anticipate human needs, enable smart city infrastructure and contribute to global sustainability, he said.

Proof-of-concept already exists in agriculture where technology trims costs, labor and waste. Automated harvesters free up manpower. Drones identify dry spots in fields and automated systems water only those areas. Data from harvesters — such as daily yield– can be used by farmers to capitalize on the futures market.

Artificial intelligence and 5G are the underpinnings of the new IoT, Koenig said. 5G capabilities are so far beyond 4G that  enterprises—rather than consumers—will drive its growth. The new IoT can be divided into two categories: massive IoT and critical IoT. Massive IoT connects a lot of endpoints but carries very little data. Critical IoT connects fewer endpoints with lots of data. Applications for the latter include remote surgery, industrial robotics and commercial virtual reality, said Koenig.

“5G will overlay every commercial and industrial sector,” he added.

5G networks will be built parallel to 4G to prepare for a gradual transition. This means devices, networks and base stations that are yet to be designed, built and field tested. Most devices will be 5G-enabled by 2023, according to CTA, but a complete transition will still take a while.

In the meantime, established companies and start-ups are developing products and services that will capitalize on connected intelligence. Trends to watch at CES 2020 include:

AI and everything. Artificial intelligence is being “consumerized.” Machine learning has been around awhile and is well understood in the industrial sector, but devices with embedded AI are already on the market – ovens that can identify and correctly cook food; doorbells with facial recognition and speakers with advanced voice recognition. “AI is permeating every facet of commerce and culture and is focused on enhancing the user experience,” said Koenig.

Intelligence of Things
Source: Anova Smart Oven, courtesy of CES 2020

AR/VR/XR untethered.  AR devices are now wireless and provide near room-scale experiences. For the science fiction fan, Star Trek’s Holodeck is – literally – closer to reality than ever before. Other AR devices have been scaled down to sunglass sizes. “The real use case” said Koenig, “is in the commercial space and B2B.” VR is training doctors on virtual cadavers. XR, a cornerstone of gaming, is catching on in the $1 billion e-sports market.

Transportation. “This is the decade for electronic vehicles,” said Koenig. There are advancements in battery technology and electric motors; charging stations are more plentiful and easier to use. Sensors and processors proliferate in EVs. “Now we are hearing a narrative about commercial EV deployment — which means fleets — and fleets mean partnerships,” he added. “Nobody can do this on their own.”

EVs are also solving the “last mile” problem in cities that are densely populated and highly congested. Electric scooters have become a popular solution to the last-mile challenge, Koenig said.

Digital health. “This becomes a lifestyle this year,” Koenig predicted. Consumer electronics are bringing the ecosystem together.

AI and 5G are moving digital health from symptom-based telemedicine to data-based telemedicine. Applications include remote bedside consultations or second opinions, and AI-assisted diagnostics. “Hospitals are going to become data centers that will need security and encryption,” Koenig added.

Robotics.  Jetson’s-style robotic maids haven’t taken over households yet. Turns out such “social robots” haven’t caught on while “task-based” robots have. “Task-based robots do one thing really well, such as vacuuming, or on automated assembly lines.” If you add mobility to a robot, you add cost, Koenig said.  There are few use-cases for mobile, social robots.

Stationary social robots currently teach languages, monitor health or dispense medication. “There are still humanoid robots in the mix, but people are wondering ‘what am I really going to use these for?’” Koenig concluded. He suggested mobile “droids” that can guide humans to their destination on a planet-sized star ship are much more practical.


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