The Connected Home is here. As techUK publishes its fourth report into the state of the Connected Home in the UK, research shows the established proliferation of smart devices in domestic settings, from televisions to smart speakers, security cameras and heating. The larger global players—Apple, Google and Amazon—have agreed with the Zigbee Alliance to form a working group with the intent of increasing compatibility among smart home products, which is (excuse the pun) a “smart” move. But what underpins a truly connected home? Fast, reliable, and the increased bandwidth, offered by next generation mobile technology: 5G.
What exactly is the impact of 5G for the Connected Home?
The fifth generation of cellular technology will bring well-known benefits to consumers and businesses, empowering Industry 4.0 and opportunities for transformative business cases. For the smart home specifically, 5G is the foundation for realising the full potential of being “connected”. For example, low latency—the interval between input from a digital device and the response from a network—will transform the capability of smart products. Add to that the capacity of a next-gen mobile network to carry more data on 5G’s increased bandwidth, and computing (or processing) taking place at the edge of the network, rather than travelling back to the core, means that the rollout of 5G will facilitate a multi-dimensional world that connects people, devices, and homes in real time.
Connectivity: the new electricity?
In the pre-COVID world, it was generally acknowledged that connectivity was increasingly vital to citizens. But the significant impact of the coronavirus pandemic and unprecedented lockdown has underscored just how crucial a reliable connection to the internet is. Indeed, Microsoft president Brad Smith judged broadband connectivity as utility-like and the “electricity of our age”. The societal impact of vulnerable people being able to connect to loved ones and medical care is signifiant: the NHS worked with Facebook to install its Portal devices in care homes across the UK, and online GP consultations via video call now the widely accepted “norm”. For the Connected Home, these recent developments should help drive the adoption of further smart health devices, enabling older people to safely stay in their homes for longer, as demonstrated by the Liverpool 5G Create trial.
Transformative applications and smart devices
Remote medical care enabled by 5G is not currently an option for the UK health services, such as breakthroughs in areas such as remote and robotic surgeries, but if demand for adoption of eHealth services is met by transformative applications, we are one step closer. This area is one where the reliability of 5G will be truly revolutionary: lifesaving monitoring of patients through connected devices and alarms, through computer vision and natural language processing. Indeed, if enterprise can capitalise in areas like machine learning and use of smart data, then 5G will become the true enabler of a “smart” connected home.
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