Jan 13 2021

CES 2021: 5G Will Power Digital Transformation for Businesses

Much faster data processing will change sports, education, business and government, said Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg

Goodbye and good riddance to 2020. As the world ushers in 2021, businesses have an opportunity to learn from all the challenges they encountered last year. Digital transformation was not new in 2020, nor were connected devices. But the pandemic changed how businesses operate, and most now expect the Internet of Things to be a vital part of their immediate future.

“In 2020, one thing became clear very quickly,” said Hans Vestberg, chairman and CEO of Verizon, during his keynote remarks at the virtual CES 2021, which runs through Jan. 14. “As COVID-19 began to spread around the world, we leapfrogged five to seven years in the digital revolution, speeding up the timeline for work-from-home, distance learning and telemedicine.”

The rapid expansion of 5G technology will power the billions of connected devices — 55 billion by 2025, to be precise, according to Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association — necessary to make all of that remote work possible, Vestberg said.

“It’s an innovation platform that makes other innovations possible,” he said. 5G is at least 10 times faster than 4G, provides ultralow lag for a signal to get from point A to point B, supports 1 million connected devices per square kilometer, allows connections and signals while traveling at speeds of approximately 310 miles per hour, and has faster and more responsive service deployment and a new standard for energy efficiency.

5G Levels the Playing Field for Small Businesses

With Mobile Edge Compute (MEC), Verizon is placing massive amounts of computing power right at the edge of its 5G network, partnering with Microsoft and Amazon Web Services to deploy MEC in Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Denver, Las Vegas, Miami, New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington D.C.

“This is taking processing out of the expensive hardware and putting it into the cloud exactly where and when it’s needed the most,” said Vestberg. It will give enterprises the ability to operate in real time, but it will also give small businesses and startups access to the same technology that in the past was only available to large companies or major research institutions, he added.

This type of digital inclusion will allow more players to develop technologies that businesses need to be more efficient and develop the products and services consumers want.

Real-World Applications of 5G Technology

5G has the potential to be a game changer — literally. For example, professional football teams must currently wait until a series of plays is over to go back to the sidelines to discuss changes for the next series. “We see a future where 5G will provide real-time analytics and visualization for teams, giving them a whole new ability to learn from the last play and prepare for the next one,” Vestberg said. “Doing this all in real time would only be possible because of 5G.” Verizon is rolling out 5G in 28 National Football League stadiums for the 2021 season.

Verizon also worked with UPS to help test its drone delivery system, Flight Forward, which will allow faster package delivery to customers. “UPS is working with a variety of partners who are coming together to create this ecosystem of smart cities,” said Bala Ganesh, vice president of the advanced technology group at UPS.

LEARN MORE: Read how smart cities are pushing governments forward.

A prescription order that would normally take four days to be delivered could arrive at a customer’s door in 30 minutes with 5G, said Ganesh. “5G is the glue that puts this all together. That is what enables us to control and communicate with these drones that are flying around.” UPS Flight Forward was certified by the FAA in 2019 and has since completed 3,800 successful drone delivery flights.

Since the pandemic, tourism has been down everywhere. Museums and historical sites were either closed or had limited capacity preventing people from learning more about history and the arts. Through the use of 5G and augmented reality, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York created 3D exhibits that anyone can enjoy from the comfort and safety of their own home. This will extend past the pandemic for anyone in the world to see works of art and cannot travel to the museum in person.

Driving Home the Importance of 5G

Government is also getting in on the 5G bandwagon. As many cities start to deploy smart city initiatives, 5G will help IoT devices stay connected and collect the data that will make effective change. “We want to be the strategic partner to states, cities and towns across the U.S. and the world,” said Vestberg. “There’s a great power in private and public partnership.”

For example, San Jose, Calif., home to Verizon’s 5G mobility and first mobile edge compute deployment, was among the early smart city adopters. In 2019, Verizon installed its Traffic Data Services solution to help the city analyze traffic patterns in an effort to reduce commuting time, leading to a lower carbon footprint for San Jose.

“5G opens up all new kinds of possibilities, but in the end, this network is all about something timeless: the human need to connect,” said Vestberg. “The legacy of 5G depends 100 percent on the people who use it. My own hope and aspiration is that we use it for good.”

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