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Sustainability Challenges and Broadband Technology: The Future of 5G

Do you hate slow connectivity and download speeds? Do you also hate an impending change to climate that could be an extinction-level event? Well then, 5G broadband technology may be right for you. We apologize now for the corny infomercial-esque intro, but the point remains as emerging 5G networks and cloud infrastructure will have a massive impact on sustainable practices going forward.

As technology and civilization have grown together, much like quarreling siblings, the growth between the two has always demanded innovation. However, humanity's growth may have surpassed its innovative checks and balances in terms of the sustainability of the planet.

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This is where the development of broadband technologies, such as 5G, can help speed up the innovation process, leading to a more sustainable way of life through its inherent efficiency of transmitting data. The benefits of 5G translates directly to massive and overreaching effects into a multitude of sectors and industries.

[Related Article - Everything You Need to Know About Technology Trends in 2020]

The interplay of 5G, IoT, and cloud infrastructure will turn connected devices into intelligent devices. And if you're a conspiracy theory enthusiast wondering if 5G is related to COVID-19, the answer is a resounding no.


What is 5G?

Well, let us begin this 5G lesson then. First of all, 5G is the next generation wireless access technology and lies on the radio spectrum. It allows us humans to broadcast different sorts of communications. The basic principle here is that low-end or low-band waves can travel further while the high-end waves can transmit greater amounts of data quicker. 

Just think about the router in your home, the 5GHz option gives you faster upload/download speeds, but if you're in another room or trying to connect through different floors of your home, that WiFi connection is going to be far less reliable and you're better off connecting to the 2.4GHz option. 

5G networks operate on low, mid, and high-end spectrum bands, offering lower latency and higher speeds, but with far less range than 4G networks. 5G will be up to 100 times faster than 4G and support more than 1,000 more devices per square meter compared to its predecessor. 

To implement 5G will require a higher concentration of cell towers, however, these 5G cell towers will be far smaller in size compared to their 4G counterparts. If you'd like to read more about this and radio waves in general, Columbia University’s article on the matter is quite informative.


Benefits of 5G: friend or foe? 

5G, as it currently stands, has a greater power consumption efficiency per bit than its 4G kin. For instance, 1kWh is required on a 4G network to download 300 movies, meanwhile, 5G can download 5,000 movies with the same amount of power. Pretty impressive, but even if 5G can deliver a bit per joule ratio, the concerns over the overall amount of power consumed comes down to the increased capacity and amount of connected devices. 

For instance, The UN predicts that 68% of people will live in cities by 2050. With buildings themselves causing over 40% of global usage of energy, i.e cooling and lighting, the need for dynamic 5G sensor-based broadband technology is needed. 

However, 5G is estimated to support 1,000 times more data than 4G by 2030, and 5G broadband networks, due to the increased capacity, will require a greater density of antennas, or ‘base stations’ to operate. Which could, in turn, see the broadband technology having to use 140% more energy than 4G. These concerns are also substantiated by the fact that currently, Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) has a carbon footprint similar to the airline industry. 

So then what is the benefit of 5G? Well, 5G power consumption and efficiency is just one small piece of its sustainable puzzle. 5G's sustainability lies in its overreaching effects on economies through a more powerful and efficient IoT, allowing for smarter cities and economic sustainability on a global scale. 5G's four areas of sustainable influence that will be covered are:

5G's areas of sustainable influence in agriculture, manufacturing, transportation, and healthcare

Smart agriculture

A major issue in how agriculture operates in its current state is the amount of water that is consumed. In the EU, Northern Europe’s agricultural sector accounts for 44% of its total water use, whereas in Southern Europe, agriculture accounts for over two-thirds. In the States, The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that 80% of all consumptive water in the country is for agricultural purposes. These numbers are absolutely staggering when you take into consideration the millions of people and the hundreds of metropolitan cities, yet agriculture remains the top dog of water usage.

What the future of 5G can bring to the 'water table' is the facilitation of Smart Water Monitoring. Through sensors, agricultural companies can then detect weather patterns, such as rainfall, soil and crop conditions, and requirements. With this massive amount of data being collected and analyzed, agricultural companies can then create and implement more efficient irrigation and crop growth systems, making 5G the Aquaman of the agricultural industry.

Food waste on the other hand is another bane to the sustainability of the agricultural industry. The UN estimates that one-third of food produced globally goes to waste, clearly a massive environmental issue when you consider the amount of total energy that is used to produce our food. 

The use of sensors on a 5G network can also be implemented to detect when crops are at the optimal stage to be harvested, accurately detect food spoilage, and track goods through transit and into markets worldwide. Shipments of food can then be transported and packaged at the optimal time for consumption, significantly cutting down on food waste.

If you’re interested in learning more about innovative and sustainable practices within the agricultural sector, be sure to check out our Innovating Sustainability report. 


Manufacturing the future of 5G

From the industrial revolution until now, there's one thing we humans are good at and that's innovating. What we haven't been so keen on is keeping our organic spaceship, Earth, free from the side-effects of our innovative nature. Have no fear, the future of 5G is here. 

Fully-automated factories can make use of 5G broadband technology to provide an increase in performance and efficiency with their machines and next-generation robotics. AI analytics on a 5G network will provide a multitude of data on power consumption and overall output to improve efficiency.

Digital twins can also be implemented to provide a better overview of the manufacturing business network that will help reduce the likelihood of faults in the system. 

In factories and industries that are more heavily reliant on personnel and legacy machines, allowing these industries to move towards wireless 5G IoT systems will help integrate employees and machines to make production increasingly efficient. Not to mention the energy saved by improving supply-chain logistics done through improved transportation routes, storage, and waste management.

Some examples of the benefits of 5G in the manufacturing industry have been compiled by Mckinsey & Co. This particular article goes more in-depth into each application and its economic sustainability in the industry.  

How 5g can transform the manufacturing industry


Transporting sustainability

Fossil fuels have been on the green 'hit list' for as long as we can remember. It is the big bad wolf of modern existence and the sustainability challenges are apparent, ranging from ozone depletion to general public health.

Transportation, however, is the lifeblood of civilization allowing goods to flow to where they are needed and is integral to every industry. 5G can help to create a better, smarter traffic and grid system through IoT-based monitoring and AI-controlled analytics. 

A smarter traffic control system using sensors and cameras to regulate traffic in real-time would allow for less idling, congestion, and time spent in traffic. The 5G IoT technology that makes for a smarter city combined with automated and energy-efficient vehicles make for an exciting future of 5G. 

A traffic control system implemented in Pittsburgh has seen a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, not to mention the hours of your life you can get back by not being stuck in traffic is priceless. Also, a 5G-based smart traffic grid reiterates the point about more efficient logistic transportation routes for goods being shipped globally. All of which can help to reduce the number of GHG being emitted by fossil fuels and a proverbial 'step in the right direction' to sustainable practices in the future.


Doctors without borders or latency

Healthcare & 5G

The future of 5G impacts healthcare in a couple ways. It will undoubtedly be highly beneficial for people living in remote cities to be able to get Computerized Tomography (CT) consultations with medical experts in real-time through 5G broadband technology. Remote procedures would also be a possibility and bring surgical expertise to rural areas through intelligent devices and robotics. In the wake of COVID-19 remote consultations and operations could safeguard medical professionals as well as patients, a social distant check-up. 

This is all great from a humanitarian standpoint, but where 5G and healthcare can shine from a sustainability standpoint is the reduction in GHG emissions by reducing travel, especially air travel. Remote consultations facilitated by 5G would  reduce emissions in the medical industry by 99%. A pretty statistically significant reduction and hey, saving icebergs one flight at a time.


5G inevitability

5G is going to be the future inevitably, the economic sustainability for businesses will drive the future of 5G forwards. But what we want to emphasise is the impact 5G will have for the implementation of better and more innovative sustainable practices spanning a multitude of industries. As you can see the numbers don’t lie and the future of 5G is expected to reduce C02 emissions by 1.5 gigatons before 2030.

The benefits are clear to 5G broadband technology, but innovation and adaptation of sustainable use technologies will be necessary to make 5G power consumption optimal. This optimization starts at the 5G towers. Suggestions are to use adaptive power to know when to put sites to sleep or when to power off and on. As well as non- A/C based efficient cooling systems, purchasing green energy, 2G/3G shutdown, and competitive energy sourcing. All of which can reduce 5G power consumption by 49%.

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At Valuer, innovation and sustainability are our specialties. The potential of 5G excites us and opens the door for so many different and unique market opportunities for businesses and collaboration. However, for companies and corporations working with 5G, implementing sustainable and efficient features can be difficult, kind of like using the world’s smallest metal detector to find a nugget of gold in the Sahara. 


Thankfully our powerful AI algorithm can help with that. What Valuer can offer clients is a generated list of innovative technologies and start-ups from various industries to help find our clients a perfectly tailored answer to their market curiosity.  

Sustainable practices must catch up to industry to tip the scales back toward a healthier planet. Fortune favors the bold, but instead, we like to think fortune favors the innovative and 5G innovation is sure to make waves in fueling the innovation economy going forward.  

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