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5G enabling the era of data-driven vehicles

(Image credit: Image Credit: Flex)

A recent report indicates that a third of network operators will rollout 5G standalone within two years. From a commercial perspective, this surge will be partly driven by an anticipation of new and emergence 5G-driven enterprise use cases. A recent study illuminating the impact of 5G on the growing Internet of Things (IoT), estimates that emerging use cases will result in 76 million 5G connections by 2025. And above all others, automotive and transportation (A&T) is the sector with the most rapid development in terms of IoT enablement. But the arrival of 5G is expected to supercharge the industry’s increasing focus on IoT applications development. The cumulative results of this growth will include the rapid emergence of smart, data-driven transportation applications and autonomous vehicles.

Next generation connectivity

The fifth generation of wireless communications technologies will enable a level of connectivity unimaginable even with 4G. Through its supercharged and wide-ranging connectivity, 5G will facilitate unprecedented levels of integration across everyday devices and platforms. This will further proliferate an ever-growing array of IoT applications. And this transformative paradigm will realise a truly seamless digital environment. But seamless connectivity will also change the nature of the technologies and devices we reply upon. This is no less true of everyday vehicles and transportation networks.

Ongoing developments and collaborations across sectors including telecoms and A&T are indicative of the rapid evolution of IoT applications. For instance, Verizon, the American telecoms operator and Intel partner, which is leading the rollout of 5G services in the US, is rapidly expanding its Ultra-Wideband 5G services in anticipating of a growing array of new IoT use cases. Such applications include A&T specific solutions. A case in point is Verizon’s GPS offering for haulage, which includes smart functionality for the essential monitoring of variables such as regional legislative compliance or fuel consumption. But the connectivity inherent in 5G will take the value generated by A&T systems and devices such as GPS to the next level.

In the case of Verizon, the focus includes facilitating the 5G proposition for A&T by connecting an ever-growing number of smart devices at the Edge of its network. This gives the operator the capacity to leverage evermore emerging IoT opportunities and address use case needs. And in this way everyday vehicles such as cargo trucks and family cars are undergoing some of the most radical developments in their histories. The promise of 5G will transform the average vehicle into a smart, data-generating component of a much wider integrated digital ecosystem.

Driving smart data

An unprecedented degree of integration across smart technologies and platforms is reshaping our homes, working lives and the commercial spaces we use. The IoT is fast becoming a reality and 5G will be a key factor in its ongoing evolution. Integrated devices and platforms are generating infinite new forms of smart and actionable data. And the A&T sector is a leading contributor to this upward curve. Through cross industry collaboration over recent years, automotive firms have invested in the development of smart, data-centric systems such as telematics applications to connection vehicles over long distances. 

Commonplace systems of this kind range from location tracking applications to real-time vehicle operations diagnostics. And the impact of this smart technology has been invaluable in terms of generating and processing unprecedented quantities of actionable data. But legacy wireless communications technologies up to 4G have their limitations. The traction possible from data generation has been subject to limited connectivity. The arrival of 5G is set to radically change this scenario. The 5G network is characterised by its futuristic speed – and this means previously unseen data speeds.

The inherent speed of 5G will enable it to generate volumes of granular level data, which will prove truly transformative across the enterprise ecosystem. With unparalleled efficiency, A&T IoT technologies such as sensor applications will generate and process data about every aspect of a vehicle’s performance or a journey undertaken. New and advanced forms of A&T-relevant intelligence such as geothermal data will be collated, processed and acted upon in real time. In this way a vehicle’s relationship to its environment can be monitored and assessed while it is in use. Meanwhile, driver behaviour can be interpreted, or vehicle performance monitored, for safety and infrastructural optimisation. 

This level of insight will enable problems to be solved, and mistakes address actively rather than retrospectively.     In the wider sense, the connectivity, speed and data-generating capability facilitated by 5G will enable more nuanced and advanced performance and productivity across the entire automotive value chain from OEMs to vehicle dealerships to servicing and insurance provision.

Smarter data at the edge

The rollout of 5G networks is gaining pace internationally. And across the A&T space, IoT applications such as vehicle telematics solutions are increasingly becoming compatible with 5G in order to quickly benefit from its advanced capabilities. Networks that are 5G-defined are underpinned by unparalleled bandwidth and lower latency, and consequently they offer the benefit of greater energy efficiency. This proposition is set to redefine the A&T paradigm as the role of the advanced 5G-enabled, data-driven networks becomes pivotal to the sector. To achieve flexible software capabilities and facilitate emerging IoT applications, traditional networks are now expanding their architecture from the cloud to the Edge. 

Within the established communications dynamic, key workloads run predominantly at the core of a network and in the cloud infrastructure. In the emerging 5G era, A&T partners will gain essential flexibility by moving workloads out to The Edge. This will facilitate the activation of new use case workloads both in the 5G cloud and at the Edge itself. In this new landscape, 5G will connect everything from smart phones to the family car. This will mean new and growing smart data sets for which Edge-based operations for storage and analytics will become crucial as the era of the autonomous vehicle arrives.

The autonomous vehicle

While the coming of the driverless car has been long awaited, the arrival of 5G represents the essential elixir to realising its potential. The development of the systems required to make safe and reliable autonomous vehicles a reality has advanced exponentially. The on-board vehicle computation software now available has the operational power once found only in backend systems. But the characteristics of 5G will enable the autonomous car to operate effectively through the full leveraging of its technology – on-board, in the cloud, and in the environment. These essential characteristics of course include unprecedented 5G network speeds, significantly reduced latency and dramatically enhanced data transmission capability. And the cumulative result of these advances will include the full leveraging of technology such as sensor systems to monitor and react to obstacles in the environment in real-time. This is of course crucial to the safety of motorists, passengers and pedestrians, which has to-date been a major stumbling block in the development of the driverless car. On the next level, 5G will enhance a vehicle’s ability to fully engage machine learning and emerging AI systems to improve performance and the quality of operational data produced.

The arrival of 5G will enable the A&T sector to realise a vehicle-to-everything (V2X) network. This places the autonomous vehicle at the centre of the IoT to benefit from an array of essential data. And the 5G network will simultaneously enable a stream of new IoT applications development. The cumulative result will be a new and transformative era of data-driven autonomous vehicles and smart transportation networks.

Alex Gledhill, Global Account Director – Vodafone Intel

Alex Gledhill is the Global Account Director at Vodafone, Intel.