0744 GMT January 29, 2020
Faster networks might be the difference between life and death.
That’s not hyperbole. Nor is it the declaration of a teenager desperately refreshing their social media pages, hoping to gain more “likes” on their posts.
Faster connectivity could revolutionize industries we might not have even considered as being connected. Lack of tech prevented innovation in the past.
But that’s all changing now … because of 5G.
Qwake, a San Francisco-based startup, created C-Thru. Originally, C-Thru was designed to help CEO Sam Cossman navigate his expeditions through smoke-filled volcanic craters. Now, it’s helping first responders save lives and stay safe themselves.
C-Thru is an augmented reality (AR) headset, according to a new Cnet story. Built-in thermal imaging and a 5G connection will help firefighters see through black smoke to locate victims more easily.
“The way we used to look for people was almost as if you were blind,” said Harold Schapelhouman, fire chief of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District. “Firefighter after firefighter, from older … to some of the newer [and] youngest, all looked through that system and went ‘wow’ … This is it, this is what we’ve been looking for.”
It’s a life-saving application made possible with next-generation wireless technology.
The key is that 5G networks are sublimely fast. When fully deployed, they should be a 100x to 200x improvement over existing 4G networks. According to Digital Trends, the difference would be like streaming a single 4K movie, and streaming 400 8K movies, at the same time.
And that’s great. Amazing, actually, when you consider what can be done with that speed.
But that’s not the only thing 5G has going for it. The real game changer is low latency, or lag.
Human reaction time is 200-300 milliseconds. So the current “ultra-broadband” 4G, at 100-200 milliseconds, is a big improvement. But 5G will reduce latency to one millisecond. This means software developers can simulate live interactions with code.
Here’s how 5G stands to make real life better, in real time …
So, why aren’t we seeing more of these great innovative products if we already have 5G?
That’s because there are still some technical limitations. But they are also temporary ones.
5G operates in mixed frequencies using a technology called millimeter wave. Unfortunately, these signals are limited to 300 meters of range. Also, the weather — even something as small as leaves blowing in the wind or rain — can disrupt connectivity and cause havoc. Often, signals can’t get through walls.
To build out a 5G wireless network capable of reaching everywhere, network providers would need to install multiple new transmitters every 200 meters, in every direction.
While the possibilities brought by 5G are exciting, it is still a new technology in development.
And plenty of companies are committed to bringing it to life, sooner rather than later.
Accenture, a global consulting company, estimated in 2018 that telco companies could spend $275 billion through 2025 getting their networks up to snuff.
On the other hand, the capacity of 5G networks is immense. A 4G network might comfortably serve one million devices per 500 square kilometers. But a 5G system could serve the same number of devices over one square kilometer.
That makes 5G perfect for dense urban centers, industrial settings, universities and hospital campuses.
Startups like Qwake are banking on that capacity …
This San Francisco company is working with the Verizon (VZ) First Responder Lab to perfect C-Thru. The current model uses a tiny computer plus thermal sensors to work magic. Objects obscured by thick smoke and gasses become silhouettes first responders can see.
Future versions of the helmet will add location tracking, plus an AI to help filter through sights and sounds to relay the most vital information.
The first responder, then, will become a walking human sensor.
Intuitive Surgical similarly revolutionized an industry.
This medical instruments manufacturer started out in 1995 with a simple goal: Make surgery less invasive using sensors and robots.
Back then, the concept seemed like science fiction. Today, the company claims that one of its Da Vinci robotic systems helps a surgeon perform better every 36 seconds.
Intuitive has a complete portfolio of robots, each with multiple fully articulating mechanical arms and hands outfitted with specialized instruments for grasping, cutting and sewing.
Surgeons sit comfortably at a console station where they view the operation through 3DHD lens. With calibrated gloves, their hands guide the robotic arms. Software corrects hand tremors and guides instruments with dexterity and precision.
Through the end of calendar 2018, Intuitive boasted five million patients, 43,000 trained surgeons and 4,989 systems installed. They also list as clients 100 percent of the top hospitals for cancer, gynecology, gastroenterology and urology.
And the company is constantly trying to disrupt its business from within. Significant R&D investments are being funneled into artificial intelligence (AI).
Intuitive Surgical is leveraging the 2,700 existing — and 1,900 pending — patents to ensure that the very first fully autonomous remote location robotic surgery system comes from Intuitive Surgical.
The arrival of low-latency 5G networks quicken the progression.
Like Qwake, Intuitive is an entrepreneurial company set to benefit from faster networks. Unlike Qwake, it’s publicly traded.
* Jon Markma is an investment adviser, trader, columnist and author. This article was taken from Forbes magazine.