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Why 5G matters for a sustainable future

2019-03-04  |  5 min read 

As my colleague Jessy Cavazos recently reported from Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the 5G future is close enough to touch. The first 5G network deployments will take place this year, and the technology will soon be in the hands of consumers as manufacturers introduce the first commercial handsets.

Inevitably, much of the excitement around the introduction of 5G focuses on its ultra-fast data speeds and high bandwidth, which support applications such as instant HD mobile video streaming and virtual reality. But those same features also enable 5G to play a key role in addressing major social and environmental challenges over the coming years. 

5G’s ability to support and manage tens of millions of sensors with real-time communications will be harnessed globally to help increase food production, improve public health, and use scarce natural resources more efficiently. Here are just a few examples of the contribution that 5G roll-outs and applications will make to a sustainable future.

Farming with 5G

Smart agriculture systems supported by 5G will play a crucial role in developing countries over the coming years, as populations grow and climate change continues to impact both arable and livestock faming. For example, HD cameras attached to drones can be used to monitor crops across even the largest farms. Sensors placed in crop fields can help optimize growing and minimize use of water, fertilizers and pesticides through more precise, targeted applications. Agriculture alone accounts for 80% of water demand in the U.S., which highlights the huge potential for using this precious resource more efficiently.

Smarter, sustainable cities

Poor air quality is an immediate threat to public health in some cities, and continued reliance on fossil fuel energy sources is contributing to global warming. 5G technologies are key to creating smart transportation management systems to address these problems. Traffic congestion in cities carries tremendous costs in terms of wasted fuel and wasted time: drivers in Washington D.C. average over nearly 4 days stuck in traffic each year. The WHO estimates that pollution from car exhausts is responsible for over 3 million deaths annually. Using cameras and sensors for dynamic traffic control systems instead of fixed traffic light cycles can reduce energy consumption, pollution, and wasted time. 

Also, city buildings themselves use large quantities of energy for lighting, heating and cooling, and information technology: it’s estimated that this is responsible for over 40% of global energy consumption. Dynamic sensor-based systems connected via 5G can react to environmental conditions and occupancy to minimise energy consumption.

Remote medicine and health 

Surgeons and other medical specialists are not always easily available, particularly in more remote and rural areas of the world. But 5G applications can enable life-saving care remotely to patients when it’s needed, cutting out the delays and complications involved in transporting an injured or sick person to the hospital. Videoconferencing supports remote health consultations, enabling health professionals to help more patients. And the world’s first remote operation using 5G connectivity took place on an animal in January this year. The surgeon used the technology to control robotic arms and performed the procedure 30 miles away in real time, taking advantage of 5G’s millisecond latency. 

Collectively, 5G technologies help to create a more sustainable future, enabling more efficient energy consumption and reducing our impact on the environment.  These same technologies also strengthen global food supplies and healthcare provision. Keysight is proud to be working with leading international technology companies and network providers to accelerate their innovations, and in turn have a positive impact on our global ecosystem. Find out more about how Keysight is driving the evolution of the 5G ecosystem here.