Opinion

Faces of the 5G World: Dreamers and Innovators for the Common Good

We are at the dawn of the fifth generation of wireless technology, and the horizon is seemingly limitless.

5G technological advances will usher in what Professor Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, sees as the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The First Industrial Revolution, which centered on an increase in industrial agricultural production, occurred in the 18th and 19th centuries and catalyzed a shift in labor from farm to factory. Railroads, cars, and telephones, along with advances in production, moved us into the Second Industrial Revolution in the 50 years leading up to World War I. For the last 40 years we have been living through the Third Industrial Revolution, often dubbed the digital age, which saw the advent of computers, the internet — and most recently smart phones.

Like earlier transformations, the Fourth Industrial Revolution should completely change the human experience. Extraordinary technological advances are merging the physical, digital, and biological worlds. Our challenge is to harness the exponential changes taking place in computing, robotics, artificial intelligence, and other fields in the service of humankind to create a better world. 5G technology is essential to this endeavor.

Just 10 years ago, state-of-the-art 4G technology enabled our texting, internet access and video streaming. Today our cars, homes and devices already interact with the physical environment and influence how we shop, travel and communicate. The state of the art has changed and the equipment and technology must keep up. 5G represents both the gateway and the transport to the world we are already building.

Consider this: If you are driving on the highway at 70 mph and spot a potential hazard, you will need about 315 feet to react. This is based on the human reaction time of about 200-300 milliseconds. At 70 mph, a mere 40 feet can make the difference in whether an accident happens. Now imagine roads abundant with autonomous vehicles. For this new transportation environment to be safe, these cars will need to process massive amounts of data and communicate vehicle-to-vehicle with much faster reaction times. This cannot occur without an advancement in communication and connectivity capabilities. This is what 5G enables.

In health care, 5G can open new frontiers in remote surgery, records management, and diagnostics. With integrated networks, clouds, and devices, annual physicals and visits to the doctor’s office may become unnecessary in many cases. Instead, wearable devices and home sensors could provide near-constant monitoring and facilitate timely treatment when necessary.

The virtual and augmented reality experience can be transformed with applications that go beyond gaming and entertainment and revolutionize areas such as education, navigation, manufacturing, workplace training, and medical diagnostics.

These are just a few examples of how 5G stands to positively impact on our lives. This is why I’m excited to lead a new project called “Faces of 5G” that will offer a glimpse of what the 5G future could bring.

Faces of 5G will prominently feature perspectives from real people who recognize the potential for 5G and how it could improve what they do and how they do it. To start, we’re featuring stories from diverse organizations such as Boulevard, which seeks to bring the arts to life through virtual, augmented and mixed reality; Street Smarts VR, which provides virtual reality training to police departments; and Silicon Harlem, which is a social venture designed to transform Harlem into a hub for technology and innovation.

These, and the many other initiatives that Faces of 5G will highlight, will demonstrate that 5G is about much more than incremental improvements to our gadgets. It is central to our future. 5G networks will help give rise to products and technologies that will sustain the virtuous cycle of innovation and creativity, ensuring that the United States remains the world leader in technology.

3G and 4G technology helped turn science fiction into daily life in the course of a generation. 5G will help enable us to achieve whatever we can conceive. Let’s watch the future unfold.

Matthew Weinberg, who is leading a newly launched project called Faces of 5G, is a Principal at Max Ventures, an early stage venture capital firm in New York, and previously worked as a political appointee at the U.S. Small Business Administration during the Obama Administration.

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