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TDWI Upside - Where Data Means Business

The Curious Impact of 5G on Data and Analytics

The upcoming 5G wireless revolution will bring great opportunity and disruption. Nowhere will this be more apparent than in use of analytics and AI.

Today, many businesses are looking at the advance of 5G wireless networks with a mixture of anticipation and apprehension. Fifth-generation networking will provide extensive advantages and possibilities for entirely new types of services, but it will also demand significant changes in infrastructure at every level.

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IoT and the ML Connection

The speedier technology is designed to facilitate the next wave of gadgets for consumers and businesses in the developing IoT. It brings a massive speed increase (up to gigabits) but also changes the structure and placement of cell sites, storage and processing requirements, and how networks are utilized in a mobile environment. It will have a particular impact upon analytics and the development of AI and machine learning.

These 5G networks are highly complex and offer far more possibilities than any previous wireless standard. Important aspects include use of small, dense cells and an emphasis upon edge computing. It will handle a massive increase in the amount of data passed through the network as presence of mobile devices escalates geometrically. More devices with more complex data feeds and functionalities will, in turn, demand new ways of managing and using network facilities.

The Impact on Analytics

Although previous networks have focused on centralization in the cloud, the 5G network will focus on diversification in handling as much processing as possible at the network edge. Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC) will make it possible to assemble information as it is provided from a broad array of logs and interactions and forward a summary to a core or larger node for further processing. This will be extremely important for real-time analytics as required most notably by the coming age of autonomous vehicles.

MEC, network virtualization, SDN, and other 5G features are available in other forms now, yet inclusion in a single package optimized for IoT creates an integrated platform capable of flexibly handling the volume, velocity, and real-time requirements of devices. Real time analytics is the driver for these requirements.

From a management perspective, the enormous complexity of these networks is also likely to require an analytics and AI-based strategy to operate the network itself. Networks will go out to smaller nodes which will operate as edge computing devices and network slices. Network slices will themselves have different characteristics according to their mission. Each virtual slice will require management and orchestration to ensure that the network and attached devices function reliably and without interruption.

Autonomy and AI will create a greater emphasis upon real-time analytics solutions. As capabilities improve, the data storm will grow ever-fiercer as the possibilities of immediate data analysis become realized in new hardware.

But Wait, There's More…

Other aspects of this new infrastructure include concerns over security and privacy. Thousands of terabytes of data will be generated by individuals around the globe and securing all of this data from criminal exploitation will be increasingly difficult. In addition, 5G is being introduced in an existing environment filled with concerns about growing use of sensors, autonomy, and increasing power and capability of small mobile devices. There are concerns over national interests, corporate intellectual property, government surveillance, and privacy.

This is what makes 5G potentially revolutionary. It is an enabler and energizer for a wide range of coming changes that are capable of rocking the way people live and do business. It is aligned with autonomy, embraced by artificial intelligence, supported by big data, enabling greater mobility, and promoting such technologies as autonomous vehicles, robotics, Industry 4.0, as wekk as smart homes,cities, and hospitals.

State of the Art

All of these changes are inevitable. It is also clear that implementation of full 5G capabilities will happen over the course of several years. It is expected that major implementations will wait until 2025. The standards are not fully set, experimentation remains to be done in some areas, and certainly the available equipment is not up to the full usage potential envisioned in the 5G specifications.

Although many are eager to see all of the touted advances, implementation of 5G and furtherance of its core concepts will require cooperation among vendors, innovators, and systems designers. Current implementations of 5G by carriers around the world focus on speed and bandwidth, but this is really only the beginning.

This revolution's impact will vary by industry. Some companies will find use cases for swift implementation of features as soon as they emerge; others may take a more calculated, long-term approach.

For those who see a near-term implementation at scale, now is the time to review database requirements for this massive inflow of real-time data. Strategies need to be developed to ensure efficient operation of edge computing solutions, requiring guidance from analytics to understand the layers of functionality and the virtual and physical assets. Network planning and optimization will be essential, and operations and business support systems will integrate analytics and AI.

Finally, it will be absolutely crucial to optimize operations and focus on the specific needs of the company rather than on the technology itself. The first focus will be the 5G radio, followed by network slicing and exploration of edge computing possibilities. A brave new world is about to awake.

About the Author

Brian J. Dooley is an author, analyst, and journalist with more than 30 years' experience in analyzing and writing about trends in IT. He has written six books, numerous user manuals, hundreds of reports, and more than 1,000 magazine features. You can contact the author at [email protected].

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