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How 5G Connectivity will enable innovation

  • 10 minute read
  • Published by Mike Hewitt on 9 May 2019
  • Last modified 3 Jun 2019

Without connectivity where will innovation be initiated, I would expand on the role that Connectivity has in enabling innovation and how I see connectivity has transformed our lives, the way we interact, the way we communicate and arguably has transformed the way we move, work and play. Most innovation has been delivered by the devices we hold in our hands and the services they deliver, and over the last 15 years has been significant development in devices and services. 

A smart phone with no signal is not very smart, Innovation has been reliant on the connectivity created by the ubiquitous communications networks we use. The smart phone and lap top, have created the ability to work anywhere any time and to be connected to anyone or everyone all the time. New devices from lighter laptops, tablet's, and services such as cloud compute, software as a service, iOS, chromeOS, and the applications that deliver information and entertainment, they are all underpinned by wireless and fixed networks - I use the term wireless selectively as I would argue all devices are wired plugged in at some point (charging - even wireless charges have wires!) Our networks have evolved, based on the fixed connectivity that underpins the wireless world that we now move through. 

Fixed networks now deliver connectivity to our homes from 50Mb/s (via FTTC - Fibre to the cabinet) to Gb+ with full fibre networks with direct fibre to the home connections. These fixed networks connect our wireless infrastructure with Mb, GB or at the carrier level from 10Gb+ optical networks to radio transmission nodes, and our cities are interconnected with Terabit networks. We are moving more and more data at the speed of light, which is connecting us to our friends, our work and our suppliers. 

We will continue to consume this fixed network capacity with an overlay of wireless infrastructure that will take the connectivity to our devices from Mb/s to Gb/s and that device could be anything from a phone, tablet, appliance, to robots, autonomous vehicles or trains.

Innovators like Google, Facebook, AirBnB, Tesla, Microsoft rely on the connectivity delivered through fixed and wireless networks, to create value through the services they offer and we consume. The future we face, continues to exploit the connectivity we rely on.existing and new individuals and their technology partners and companies will innovate to deliver new applications and services, built on future technology platforms. And all these solutions will be delivered using the fixed and wireless infrastructure that organisations like ADComms deliver. These networks will provide the connectivity that future innovators, inventors and visionaries use to deliver the next generation of services that could or will transform our society. 

The next 5 years will see a series of innovative technologies that we will come to use every day and we ultimately rely on - look how quickly connectivity has become the 4th utility and a critical service to us all. My top 5 technologies for transforming our future are below;


1 - IoT - Internet of Things - connecting sensors, devices, appliances, vehicles and any other device that you can imagine. The value comes not from the device or the data, but how the data is used, distributed and consumed - the engineers of the future will also be data scientists, data miners and the information aggregators that find a way to deliver value to consumers from the date we create.

2 - Block Chain / Distributed Ledger - A distributed ledger is a database that is consensually shared and synchronised across network spread across multiple sites, institutions or geographies. It allows transactions to have public "witnesses," thereby making a cyberattack more difficult. The participant at each node of the network can access the recordings shared across that network and can own an identical copy of it. Further, any changes or additions made to the ledger are reflected and copied to all participants in a matter of seconds or minutes. Underlying the distributed ledger technology is the blockchain, which is the technology that underlies bitcoin. The blockchain is a growing list of records linked by cryptography to secure the information they contain. Examples future uses fo the technology include; Smart Ticketing, Smart Contracts including property transfers, authenticated voting for government. The power of the blockchain is it is decentralised so the power is no longer with nation states to control economies, currencies or policies.

3 - AI - Artificial Intelligence or as i prefer Assisted Intelligence uses compute power to imitate human intelligence to automate decision making, to analyse data and make automated decisions, image recognition, facial recognition, creativity, game play, data analytics and decision support (the Autonomous Vehicle). The power of human intelligence in our evolution to date has been transformational from sea dwelling to tree dwelling to where we are now is truly evolutionary and the role of technology will be revolutionary as we embrace AI. Some of the interesting applications of AI

  • Chat Bots delivering information to customers when they require it enabling staff to deal with complex issues.
  • Healthcare and Medical Diagnosis - with a GP in out pocket can AI help to make diagnosis based on at the symptoms we enter and information from health monitoring devices we now wear.
  • Intelligent Cybersecurity - monitoring and defending networks from suspicious activity and protecting critical national infrastructure.
  • Google Deepmind and AlphaGo - represented a step forward in AI with the ability of the software itself to learn through reinforcement learning and learning to master the ancient game of GO in 3 days - there future applications of this type of learning would be assisting with solving elemental problems in physics or application to the development of new drugs.

4 -Additive Manufacturing / 3D Printing - manufacturing has gone through many iterations over move to more local production - While it is not yet in danger of replacing mass manufacturing, 3D printing will encourage production closer to the point of consumption - “Whereas cars today are made by just a few hundred factories around the world, they might one day be made in every metropolitan area. Parts could be made at dealerships and repair shops,” More customised products - Additive manufacturing lends itself to the production of customised goods, and could allow us greater individuality in everything from our clothes to our cars and home interiors. A French company, Sculpteo, has launched the world’s first 3D printing mobile app, which integrates the work of professional designers with end users’ personal data.

  • A new era of creativity - Additive manufacturing opens up new possibilities for amateurs and professionals alike to follow their imagination, and could stimulate the creativity of a new generation of artists, designers and engineers. Vivek Wadhwa, VP of Innovations and Research at Singularity University says: “We are about to see a renaissance in design. Imagine what Leonardo da Vinci could have designed if he had an iPad and 3D printer. 
  • New horizons for other industries - Additive manufacturing could revolutionise production in some industries. In the healthcare sector, scientists are already using it to create new body parts. In 2012 an 83-year-old woman became the first recipient of a printed jawbone created by a Belgian company LayerWise.
  • 3D printing could also revolutionise chemistry and pharmaceuticals. Researchers at Harvard University have created a miniature battery while Lee Cronin, a chemist from the University of Glasgow, claims to have prototyped a 3D printer capable of assembling chemical compounds and printing drugs.

5 - Automation - such a large area for develop from automation of what we buy, how we move, from 1-Click to Zero-Click when products are delivered by drone to home without our input based on usage, preference or prediction - imagine having the bad day in the office and when you arrive at home theres the personal trainer, wine merchant and UberEat waiting for you without your involvement (AI, Big Data - exercise out the frustration, sip the fine wine and eat your favourite meal - you bad day transformed into a positive experience?

Automation application are far spread from;

  • Logistics and Picking - Amazon and Ocado have automated the picking and dispatch of the products we order.
  • Software solutions that automate the preparation of company accounts
  • Autonomous Vehicles changing how we move
  • Automated online training solutions changing how we learn.

In my capacity as CTO I’m constantly challenged to evaluate, investigate and recommend technologies that can help transform our internal capabilities and transform customers capabilities in order to deliver their core services that our end users demand. I would argue that connectivity underpins every transformational opportunity - thats why I’m proud to announce the news that Panasonic has been selected to deliver ubiquitous connectivity to Merseyrail's new rolling stock in partnership with ADComms (a Panasonic Business) as the rail delivery and technology partner. We will be delivering a dedicated connectivity solution that will enable current and future technologies to connect, engage and transform journeys.


All of the above is possible albeit difficult - Delivering connectivity to every one, every where is not without its challenges - ever wondered why you cant make a call from a mobile phone on the train, why you good on board wifi doesn’t enable you to connect to the internet, why there are areas of the country have no signal - we know why and how to overcome them and while a challenge its a challenge we welcome. 

There are so many elements we take for granted when we connect to our devices, Copper and Fibre Cable, Optical Lasers transmitting data at the speed of light, extension of power to remote locations, backup power systems, underground infrastructure for routing cables, trackside towers and station based infrastructure, people who design, build and maintain radio and fixed networks and then the system that secure, manage, and monitor this infrastructure. All of these capabilities are delivered by people many of which I’m proud to call my colleagues.

The Government has committed via their manifesto commitments to deliver high speed passenger wifi - my commitment is to solve the wider challenge of high speed connectivity to all UK 

To finish, much of the above are the positives of our future - and to balance - there are negatives and implications we need to consider;

  1. IoT - when every device is connected the impact of data security, data protection, identity theft, cyber warfare, cyber disruption and network security.
  2. BlockChain - we are all aware of the volatility of cryptocurrencies, illegal use of digital currencies and the complete dependency of the internet.
  3. AI - if i look back to HAL (2001 a space odyssey), Skynet (Terminator), WarGames (WOPR) for those of you over 40, or now it's SIRI, Alexa, Google, Facebook data breaches, data bias - will our future be what we envisage - or what we are told?
  4. 3D Printing - copyright protection - 3D printed undetectable weapons

And as a final - did leaving the ocean result in our loss of ability to swim, did walking mean we couldn’t sit, did embracing fire - burn all the forests (some would argue we are) or did we learn to cook food that fuelled the increased in our intelligence - and yes much of todays processed food decreases intelligence, did the industrial revolution result in the loss of employment for all?, will future technologies, erode and decrease, or evolve and improve? 

I suggest evolution is a process that has and will always exist, its down to us all to embrace the technologies that evolve and transforms our lives for the better, refrain from the technologies that devolve our lives for the worse, we balance, we learn, we create, we invest, we challenge, we ask why, we ask how and we ask what - I ask consider, communicate and connect - and its the connectivity we have as individuals, the connectivity we have as communities and the global connectivity that enables innovation and evolution if we use it correctly.


Mike Hewitt (CTO - ADComms, Connectivity Evangelist, Futurologist)