From Big Data to Big Big Data

 In In Focus, News, Technology, Telecoms

AI, 5G and Digital Transformation are all irreversible technological trends made possible by big data which will take us to worlds and realties we never could have dreamed of. But how will this technology change our lives, how will it be policed and protected from cybersecurity threats. Will we even be in control of it? The American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) learnt more through the webinar ‘Overcoming uncertainty with 5G, Cybersecurity and Digital Transformation.

By Chris Graeme

In recent years Portugal has always been ready to adopt new technology. In the 1990s it was behind the Multibanco ATM network and Via Verde automatic road toll payment system which were groundbreaking in Europe.
And while Portugal rarely develops cutting-edge technology, since this requires a collaborative scientific, technological and investment effort rarely confined to one country, let alone a small one with a population of just 10 million people, it has been an excellent example of a nation which readily adopts new technology.
Vital for Portugal’s business and enterprise network in order for its firms to be competitive, this new world of 5G paves the way for the rapid processing of vast volumes of data – more data access for social and regional sectors of society that currently have a limited ability to do so, and which will, in effect, bring countries and peoples together.
This is particularly important for the Internet of Things (IoT) domain, which has been developing well and rapidly, but up until now has always been hampered by the obstacle of a slower 4G network which constrains and limits the amount of data that can be transferred. 5G and IoT will change all of this.
“This access to fast big data will throw up challenges in the domains of privacy, data protection and cybersecurity,” says the President of AmCham, António Martins da Costa who points out that
Cybersecurity does not just mean protecting company and personal data, people’s privacy and the confidentiality of business information, but also covers national and international security issues.
“We are experiencing various waves of 5G technological change, with China’s Huawei advancing rapidly with an highly advanced technology, and firms in Europe and the United States such as Verizon, Nokia, Ericsson, IBM and Cisco equally making strides in these new data technology areas, which does not have to be worrying in terms of data protection and critical systems if a system of international standards is set in place,” argues Martins da Costa.
Da Costa believes that overall, digital and technological competitiveness will be “vital for Portugal” as will the “implementation of international standards” covering and governing technologies that are now taking off, and which are at a more developed stage in some countries than in others as Portugal starts to launch 5G throughout the country.
Accenture’s 5G global strategy expert Jeff Wang, author of the book ‘The Future Home in the 5G Era: Next Generation Strategies for Hyper-Connected Living’ is an expert on the application and adoption of 5G technology and its impacts on sectors and industries.
Firstly, he says, municipal and local authorities will benefit from 5G technology, particularly public transport and regulating systems for buildings, making the world a better place by reducing traffic and emissions through better connectivity from 5G.
Wang says that one opportunity area for IoT and 5G will be in the home or rather the ‘future home’ a taste of which we have already experienced through the continued take-up of working from home initiatives via Zoom during the Covid-19 pandemic, but will include entertainment from home and even doctors appointments from home, as well as interconnected and intelligent utilities and appliances through IoT.
5G and IoT also will influence supply chain technology where products have to be maintained at the right temperature and humidity levels through the transportation process.
Another application will be in the oil and gas industries where traditionally it has been hard to get internet connectivity over a large areas such as an oil or gas field, and where 5G will now be able to provide that connectivity.
Equally, there will be applications for manufacturing with video analytics for contact tracing and controlling efficient material usage, or in helping a manufacturing plant increase the number of shifts through productivity.
5G is already a massive industry worth around US$285Bn, but not all 5G technology is created equal and this is important when thinking about how different industries can be revolutionised.
“5G is really about new everything. All the other generations had been very progressive, but with 5G we are thinking about new networks and new devices and even new industries,” says Jeff Wang.
Specifically, new networks means new radio access, new transport mechanisms that are unified and harmonised with fibre, new core networks that are virtualised, and potentially private networks around these areas so that we can deliver a better experience that people want,” Wang continues.
This ‘new everything’ can provide higher speeds, lower latency and more response and more devices that can be interconnected per square kilometre.
“In the 4G network, only about 100,000 devices could be connected in a square kilometre, but with 5G we can connect over a million devices per square kilometre,” he explains.
But spectrums are different. With Sub-6 you have far-reaching coverage but not necessarily speed but it can be installed alongside 4G LTE equipment. mmWave, however provides a spectrum in large chunks for very fast transmission speeds with a strong signal. This shows how 5G is not all created equal and you need a combination to get a complete picture for the usage cases.

Smarter and smarter

Then there is the device evolution that has been happening and this is important for transforming different industries.
In 3G you had a phone, laptop and an iPod for music for example, in 4G this was converged into the smart phone which is at the centre of our digital lives. “We believe that when we move to 5G we will see another divergent pattern,” says Wang.
“Smart phones will still be important, perhaps even more important in the first phase of 5G. But then you will start to see discreet features and functions. An example will be the smart watch which will move from being linked to the smart phone, to being a standalone smart watch which will enable you to get that all-important text or information you would have got from your smart phone,” says Wang.
In other words, functions will be pulled out of other devices and operate from the smart watch, or robots, intelligent vehicles and even drones in what will be called the ‘decade of divergence’.
So how is 5G different from 4G? How is it different from wifi? Wireless will enjoy speeds that are comparable to wired connections.
One of the key differentiators of 5G is responsiveness. With 5G you will get real time connections of 10 milliseconds and eventually 1 millisecond or real time.
This has applications from gaming, for example, and all the way to business and manufacturing so that you can train someone and up-skill quicker thanks to real time technology.
So what about the number of devices? 5G offers the opportunity to connect with 10 times more devices per square kilometre. Before IT was dependent on wifi, but now, with so much more capacity, with 5G opportunities to connect more devices open up. So the difference between cellular and 5G wifi will be the reliability.
“I think that one key area we will see in the coming year is the implementation of the ‘network slice’ that enables the multiplexing of virtualised and independent logical networks on the same physical network infrastructure. Each network slice is an isolated end-to-end network tailored to fulfil diverse requirements requested by a particular application and a whole host of industries will have an incredible opportunity to digitally transform,” explains Wang.

Portugal – an early adopter

AmCham President António Martins da Costa argues that Portugal should be an early adopter of 5G tecnology because it will bring important competitive advantages. In fact, Portugal has already invested strongly in fibre optic coverage through companies like Altice Portugal, which also invested heavily in 4G technology and will lead the way nationwide in 5G.
“5G will change not only the global paradigm of personal interactions but also interactions with machines and between machines, amplified by the growth of IoT and Edge processing technologies,” he said.
“The United States will naturally take a key role in this technological innovation as a world power in which entrepreneurship is a huge driver in the market. The size of the market is a driving factor but so too is its own sophisticated technology,” says Martins da Costa.
“Portugal is making inroads too, thanks to its great capacity to adopt innovative technology and develop solutions with a great value creating potential. This had already happened in electronic transactions through the Multibanco system or Via Verde in which Portugal was the first to market,” he added.