The future of wireless: 5G, small cell networks, and the impact on society

Dr. Ian C. Wong spoke about the future data networks, its impact on society, what is beyond the 4G wireless communication system, and how better communications can improve machine to machine networking for manufacturing, at the 2014 NIDays Chicago.


Dr. Ian C. Wong speaking at the 2014 NIDays convention able the future of wireless and how it will impact society. Courtesy: Control Engineering, Anisa SamarxhiuImproving communications increases the value of manufacturing machines. That was one of the messages from Dr. Ian C. Wong, who spoke about the future data networks, its impact on society, and what is beyond the 4G system at the 2014 NIDays Chicago. He began with showing two pictures taken in Vatican when there was a new pope in 2005 and 2013, a noticeable difference between the two was that in 2013 everyone had a camera phone in their hands to document the event. Wong then stated that by the end of 2014, there will be more mobile devices than people.

“With the increasing use of networking devices, what's stopping the data networks from crashing? The only thing that's keeping the network going is the few people that refuse to get smart phones,” Wong said, producing some laughter among engineers gathered. Wong then presented a couple of predictions to the audience: by 2020, networks are trying to get to 20 gigabits per second of wireless capability, and by 2018, on a global scale, we will be using 20 exabytes a month of data on our phone (80%-90% of it will be used on video applications). While consumer needs are driving some of the demand, in developed countries, it's the industrial Internet that is driving the demand for data. Every machine wants to be smart to stay competitive. Wong emphasized that point by adding, “We are moving from connecting people to people to connecting machines to machines. By creating those connections, these are billions of dollars in value.”

But this demand for data comes with its own set of challenges. One of the challenges is the tactile Internet and that people can't tolerate things that don't follow their intended motions for a long period of time. Some examples of when the tactile Internet is used include: gaming and creating a virtual reality game with faster response time so that people don't get motion sickness; remote control humanoid robots and having those humanoid robots used in healthcare to take care of sick patients without the human nurses and doctors getting sick themselves; and autonomous vehicles coming to the point where there will be no need for traffic lights, and there will be no accidents. 

3 solutions to meet 5G wireless needs

Wong predicted that by 2020 there will be 100 times more traffic online, we will need technology that is 100 times more energy efficient and with 10 times less latency. While this is an imposing challenge, Wong proposed three solutions to meet the demands of the oncoming 5th generation of wireless communication (5G). 

1) His first solution was cell densification, instead of having large power stations in strategic places, Wong proposed that we have smaller power cells everywhere to meet the demands of data usage. 

2) His second solution was to introduce massive multiple input/multiple output (MIMO) communications. At this time we have about 8 antennas to a power station, Wong proposed that the number should be raised to 100 antennas to allow for multiple users. While this number may seem high, Wong argued that the power stations can handle it. 

3) His third solution was mmWave access. Wong argued that the higher frequency can allow for the use of more bandwidth. 

The 5th generation of communication will transform the industries and the technology that is needed to meet the growing demand for data, he suggested. 

-Anisa Samarxhiu and Joy Chang are digital project managers, CFE Media, Control Engineering, Plant Engineering.

Online Extra

NI provides more information about wireless development.

Control Engineering has a wireless page.

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