With communications and data storage demanding more and more of our wireless networks with each passing day, it is clear that our current 4G network will soon by overtaxed. Anyone who has ever lost a signal when driving outside of populated areas knows all too well how limited our current networks are. And that’s to say nothing of the connection issues that exist on a day-to-day basis inside population centers. From weak signals to networks that are ill-equipped to serve everyone at once, there is clearly room for improvement.
The only solution is an all-new fifth generation wireless network made up of multiple technologies working in harmony with each other to meet present and future needs:
- A network with faster speeds and greater accessibility
- A network that reaches everywhere, and is available to everyone
- A network of the future
Such a network could revolutionize the Internet of Things and bring about changes to a wide range of industries—including healthcare. Thankfully, this network is on its way.
5G: Faster data speeds meet universal access
The two key features that will distinguish a 5G network from previous communication standards are speed and accessibility. Thanks to features such as improved encoding (orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing or OFDM), wider bandwidths, higher transmission frequencies, advanced antenna technology, and a larger number of smaller cells working in conjunction, 5G technology will enable connection speeds that are up to 10X faster than currently possible, with drastically reduced latency rates.
Additionally, near universal accessibility and availability is expected to be a key component of any 5G network with target goals of 100% coverage and 99% uptime. This will enable up to 100 times more connected devices than is currently possible. This is key in order to realize the full potential of the Internet of Things. There are still large swaths of the United States with little to no cellular coverage, particularly in the west and in rural areas. One of the key goals of a fifth generation network is to bring cellular coverage to everyone, regardless of where they live. This will benefit individuals, businesses, and government organizations alike.
As of now, it could be argued that the Internet of Things is still in its infancy. Though a small number of appliances and other home gadgets can now access the cloud (such as refrigerators and thermostats), this is a rather poor example of what the IoT can and should be. In the near future, nearly all electronic devices will be Internet-enabled. This includes automobiles, handheld devices, appliances, cameras, wearables, and even infrastructure, public buildings, and homes. Perhaps not surprisingly, it is expected that spending in these areas will rise dramatically. As 5G technology provides greater connectivity, more and more uses for this technology are likely to surface. The technology opens up all sorts of possibilities and one industry that could benefit greatly is healthcare.
Healthcare, the Internet of Things, and 5G Technology
From monitoring newborns to facilitating health information exchanges, the IoT is already playing a role in healthcare. By leveraging the cloud, the healthcare industry is able to stay better connected with patients, provide better monitoring, foster patient engagement, and improve patient outcomes. But the applications are currently limited by the available technology. With 5G technology on the horizon, the healthcare industry could soon see exponential growth in this area. What might this technology be used for? Among other things, analytics, diagnosis, treatment, and population health management.
These end results—improved analysis, treatment, and health management—can be accomplished in part thanks to a variety of IoT technologies, including wearables, cloud-connected healthcare monitoring and diagnostic tools, patient healthcare portals, mobile apps, and electronic medical records. These tools have the potential to improve diagnoses, patient monitoring, medical research, and patient care. But only if these tools are leveraged to their full potential—this is where a comprehensive 5G network comes in. Without the proper network in place, the potential of connected devices is limited. A new, more robust network could unlock this potential.
One of the key hurdles currently facing the healthcare industry, and its adoption of IoT technology, is our 4G network. For larger data sets, it simply isn’t fast enough (in simple terms, large amounts of data require fast bandwidth). And the lack of wireless availability in many rural areas prevents widespread adoption. Thus, our current network is limited both in bandwidth and reach. 5G technology can provide a solution to both of these problems, through vastly improved bandwidth speeds and wider availability with greater uptime. Eliminate these hurdles, and you can open up the floodgates, enabling the technology to finally catch up with the idea. That is what 5G technology makes possible.
Healthcare and the connected future
Assuming 5G technology and the IoT reaches its full potential, it’s likely that your healthcare experience could soon take place online as much as in person. Wearable technology will enable you (and your doctors) to monitor your health in real time; electronic health records will ensure that all of your healthcare providers have access to the same information, and mobile apps will allow you to access medical and patient information right from your device. This technology also opens up the possibility for improved patient outcomes, on-demand treatment, and more affordable care.
Though there are security issues to be solved and the issue of privacy to be dealt with, it’s clear to see the benefits that 5G technology could provide. By making it easier for patients and healthcare providers to communicate—and for healthcare providers to access patient information—a 5G network has the potential to bring forth an evolutionary leap forward that will benefit everyone. The degree to which this technology will be incorporated and adopted by the industry is anyone’s guess, and, at this point in time, impossible to say. After all, there are real practical hurdles to overcome, particularly with data sharing, privacy rights, and technological adoption. However, all that being said, it’s still a safe bet that the future of healthcare is a connected one. Are you ready?