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An Extraordinary Time: 5G, IoT and Sustainability of the Future

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By Bridget Karlin, Managing Director, IoT Strategy Group and Integrated Products Division, Intel Corporation

bridgetFrom connected thermostats to self-driving vehicles, advanced connectivity is transforming our lives while saving energy and reducing pollution. But the full extent of IoT possibilities for sustainability has yet to be realized. Living in a sustainable and environmentally responsible way is increasingly important to people, corporations and governments around the world. There are key foundational technologies that will serve as the core architecture for future capabilities in a sustainable world. Most significantly, 5G – the rapidly emerging successor to today’s 4G – will be crucial to the success of the Internet of Things and its ability to create a meaningful and lasting impact to our environmental, health, and infrastructure challenges.

5G is not simply an extension of 3G and 4G. It is a new ecosystem that includes integration of 4G, Wi-Fi, millimeter wave, and other wireless access technologies. It will be a transformation from a personal communications network to a computing platform that will infuse intelligence throughout communications infrastructure. Its advancements will provide more flexibility, speed and better coverage, moving us from a user-centric world to one of massive machine type communications – from connecting millions of devices to billions of things. 5G networks will offer an unprecedented integration of wireless connectivity, computing intelligence, and distributed cloud resources.

Last week, the Brookings Institution published a paper titled “Achieving Sustainability in a 5G World,” illustrating the ways in which technology enables public protection, resource management, and overall sustainability. The report tells us that 5G and IoT can play a major role in environmental sustainability:

  • Water: Public health studies reveal that digital technology could have mitigated the negative consequences of lead toxins in Flint, Michigan. Inexpensive sensors can detect unsafe chemicals in water and pro-actively notify authorities about possible health risks.

    Sensors also are useful for water management. Studies from the Environmental Protection Agency and others have estimated that communities in the United States can lose as much as 30 percent of their water along the way due to leaks in the distribution system. Sensors and advanced metering infrastructure can help managers see when leaks take place and how much water is being lost. In cities with aging infrastructure, this represents a way to monitor leaks and manage water in real-time.

  • Traffic Management: According to the United Nations, by 2030 an estimated 5 billion people will live in urban areas, and smart transportation can have a considerable positive impact. Driverless cars will no doubt help with energy savings, productivity gains and reduced air pollution - reducing traffic congestion and actively managing intersection and traffic patterns. A recent Morgan Stanley report estimated there will be $158 billion in fuel cost savings and $138 billion in productivity gains from eliminating traffic congestion in the U.S. as a result of automated vehicles.

  • Smart Buildings: According to research from the University of Pennsylvania, buildings account for 42 percent of the world’s energy use. This includes power for lighting, heating, cooling, and building operations. Having designs that operate efficiently is crucial for future sustainability. Technology solutions for the evaluation, monitoring, management and verification of energy usage will help managers operate their networks more efficiently.

Many solutions are being implemented today, but with 5G and fully enabled IoT, once things are connected and smart, data can be shared and turned into actionable insights. Things like parking meters, digital signs, buildings, street lights and cars will be connected and have capabilities well beyond the single uses for which they were created.

To improve sustainability, we need to leverage the full potential of 5G and IoT. Broad adoption and deployment will require collaboration across industry and all levels of government. At Intel, we are working with our ecosystem partners worldwide to define common standards and protocols, design open platforms, create test-beds to ensure interoperability and integrate security at the onset to enable these innovations to operate reliably and securely.

Last week, speaking at a Brookings Institution event, I told attendees that we are on the precipice of a transformational age driven by technology. With IoT and 5G, we are revolutionizing how we work and live. We are in a time when technology is valued not just for the devices it produces, but for the problems it can solve and the experiences it makes possible.

I believe the opportunity to address and solve our global sustainability challenges has never been greater. We are living in a truly extraordinary time.
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