How is technology such as 5G enabling business? | Deloitte UK has been saved
Sarah Kruger, a director at Deloitte in Bristol, delves into 5G and discusses how technology can be an enabler to solving business problems.
As many of us may have experienced, WiFi connections have proved unstable for many households during lockdown, as bandwidth was stretched to support family members working from home at the same time as others were remote schooling, playing online video games or using streaming services.
Tethering your mobile to your laptop may have been one way to solve connectivity issues on the fly, but mobile broadband is currently not perceived by many as a fully-fledged alternative to a fixed broadband connection at home. Unless, of course, we’re talking about the next generation of mobile networks - 5G.
5G is the single most significant network-centric innovation for several years. Whilst data-heavy mobile users aspire to the faster speeds, better reliability and improved capacity that 5G networks deliver, there’s much more to it than a simple upgrade on 4G.
Our recently released Digital Consumer Trends research found that more than half of desk-based workers said they would like to work from home more often once lockdown restrictions are fully lifted. This means that households may choose to rely on a hybrid of 5G and WiFi connectivity in the future to improve their connectivity. Yet, as of May 2020, just 2% of respondents in our survey claimed to be using 5G. But is this related to roll-out or an understanding of what 5G is?
It is still early days in the race toward advanced connectivity. Luckily, Bristol was one of the first areas in the UK to get a 5G connection, and it’s also available in Swindon, Bath, Western-super-Mare, Plymouth and Newquay.
The 5G roll-out by mobile operators has until recently been targeted around busy, urban areas or perhaps even tourist destinations, as it’s demand driven. With the pandemic, demand has softened as network users are staying at home more and are no longer on the go in congested areas suffering from connectivity issues. With this in mind, many operators have deferred their deployment plans.
Many believe the impact of 5G on consumers is likely to be less pronounced than with the 4G upgrade but should still be tangible. When it comes to businesses and the public sector, however, that’s a completely different story. 5G is poised to drive massive changes for organisations as they look to automate and drive agility.
In my view, 5G myths have been among the most seen and shared of untruths in 2020, with a cascade of 5G misinformation sweeping across social media, blogs and fake news sites. Our recent research revealed that 43% of UK consumers are unsure whether or not 5G technology poses a health risk. Bearing this in mind, the industry has a challenging but pressing task on its hands to educate consumers over the safety of 5G to support uptake of the technology. And also to articulate to business leaders the advantages and enhancements 5G can bring to their operations.
Mobile technologies like 5G can increase the effectiveness of employees by reducing the down time associated with commuting, and continue to aid workplace flexibility, which enhances productivity. In addition to the economic benefits, there are social ones, especially those delivered in smart cities. But it doesn’t stop there.
5G is a fundamental shift in wireless connectivity, potentially as transformational as the shift to cloud computing. It has the potential to become the world’s predominant LAN and WAN technology over the next 10 to 20 years.
You may have read about different applications of 5G, for example how it’s enabling remote surgery, autonomous vehicles or delivery drones. But 5G’s biggest impact is set to be behind the scenes: inside factories, warehouses, depots and industrial plants. It will particularly enable greater activity in more labour heavy sectors such as manufacturing.
In March this year, the UK government announced a large investment in using 5G for manufacturing– a £9m project that will install a private 5G network at the National Composites Centre in Bristol.
Advanced wireless technologies will likely become an essential part of the fabric that links billions of devices, machines, and people in the hyperconnected era. They promise dramatic performance improvements - faster speeds of between 1 to 20 Gbps, increased data capacity, lower latency, greater device density, and precise location sensing—that make wireless an attractive alternative to wired or fixed networks for heavy-bandwidth, time-sensitive needs.
All in all, 5G deployments will benefit most sectors via the enablement of new business models. As well as manufacturing, other industries that could benefit from the advantages of 5G include public and emergency services, financial services, automotive, public transport, media, entertainment, travel, leisure, energy and utilities as well as healthcare. For example, virtual and augmented reality applications are currently used in healthcare, but there are other health applications that could benefit from a greater reliability in network connections.
I lead Deloitte’s Techworks team based in Bristol, which is the home of our global technology delivery capabilities in the South West and Wales. We deliver digital transformation expertise through technology and engineering solutions.
Earlier this year, my team collaborated with a drone delivery service provider and mobile operator to transport medical supplies and samples for the NHS in Scotland using space-enabled drones in a COVID-19 response funding initiative.
Pick-ups that currently take up to 48 hours to be transported between healthcare sites will take only 30 minutes and with a much higher frequency. Plus NHS staff will be able to make on-demand and scheduled requests to use the drones, via a web customer interface developed by Deloitte.
Whilst the technology in this project used 4G, it’s still a powerful example of the value that drones could bring to communities and wider society in the coming years, as businesses collaborate to further develop the technology. And with 5G onboard, there’s no limit to the applications and business uses.
In my view, the more businesses, universities and communities collaborate, the more they’ll be able to benefit from new and emerging technologies to enable more problem solving. For example, the Smart Internet Lab at the University of Bristol has been recognised as the top higher education institution within the UK as a concentrated 5G hub of established collaborative relationships between national and international institutions, authorities and industry. A great example of collaboration.
At Deloitte, we’re proud to be involved again this year in the Bristol Technology Festival, a week-long event that showcases the sheer breadth of technology expertise in the area and how tech can be deployed. We’ve also recently closed applications for the 23rd annual Deloitte Technology Fast 50 programme which celebrates innovation and entrepreneurship. Many South West businesses have featured in past awards and we were pleased to have received many entries once again from businesses in the region.
We help our clients understand some of the breakthroughs that new technologies such as 5G bring, how it might help transform their organisation and, importantly, help them make it happen.
Today, business and technology innovation are inextricably linked and the demand for technology-enabled business transformation services is rapidly growing. Deloitte’s technology professionals help clients resolve their most critical information and technology challenges. We’re proud to work with many clients in the South West both in the public sector and across many industries in the private sector. We’re keen to work with local businesses and organisations of all sizes to continue the advancement of technology in our community and society. Please get in touch.
Sarah is a director in Consulting with over 15 years’ commercial experience in development, technical architecture, and delivery and governance roles. She now leads TechWorks, Deloitte’s tech delivery capability in Bristol. Sarah has extensive team leadership experience and a strong technical background. She has delivered multiple digital transformation projects in an agile environment with responsibility for the technical quality and management of the team. Sarah has considerable cross-sector and consultancy experience delivering web, mobile and desktop applications built on both microservices and monolithic architectures hosted in the cloud on both AWS and Azure. She is focused on improving quality and time to market for clients through the promotion of agile engineering best practices. Sarah has an academic and research background with a Ph.D. in Image Processing and Computer Vision.