Ben­e­fits of in­ter­net of things go be­yond peo­ple

China Daily European Weekly - - Comment - The au­thor is deputy chair­man and ro­tat­ing CEO at Huawei Tech­nolo­gies.

Busi­nesses in ev­ery in­dus­try should be aware that, in a world of deep­en­ing con­nec­tions, every­thing is a po­ten­tial new sub­scriber

Con­nect­ing more “things” to the in­ter­net has the po­ten­tial to in­crease ef­fi­ciency, lift pro­duc­tiv­ity, re­duce waste and fuel eco­nomic growth. Ac­cord­ing to a McK­in­sey Global In­sti­tute study, a fully net­worked in­ter­net of things could add up to $11 tril­lion to the global econ­omy each year by 2025. Re­al­iz­ing these ben­e­fits, how­ever, will re­quire changes in how data is de­liv­ered and man­aged.

To­day’s broad­band net­works were built to serve peo­ple. They are used to make phone calls, chat by video, surf the web and play on­line games, and thus are fairly lim­ited in scope.

Sce­nar­ios for con­nect­ing things are much more di­verse. For ex­am­ple, a net­worked ship­ping con­tainer cross­ing the ocean must have ex­tended wire­less range, but it doesn’t need su­per­fast re­sponse speeds. The op­po­site is true for vir­tual re­al­ity head­sets, which re­quire ul­tralow de­lay, or la­tency, to give view­ers an im­mer­sive ex­pe­ri­ence. By 2025, the world will have around 100 bil­lion con­nected de­vices, and to de­rive max­i­mum value from these link­ages, we will need to op­ti­mize our net­works for things as well as peo­ple.

The first step in do­ing that is en­sur­ing that fu­ture net­works have enough band­width to han­dle ap­pli­ca­tions such as high-def­i­ni­tion video, which will soon ac­count for the ma­jor­ity of user traf­fic. A par­tic­u­lar chal­lenge will be up­grad­ing sys­tems to han­dle in­dus­trial video, which is fast be­com­ing in­te­gral to modern man­u­fac­tur­ing. For ex­am­ple, chip foundries use ma­chine vi­sion to check in­te­grated cir­cuits for mi­cro­scopic de­fects, a process that re­quires ex­traor­di­nar­ily high res­o­lu­tion. To trans­mit this in­for­ma­tion, cam­eras need band­widths of up to 10 gi­ga­bits per sec­ond, and a sin­gle fac­tory may have 1,000 cam­eras run­ning si­mul­ta­ne­ously.

Sec­ond, when it comes to data la­tency, to­day’s net­works are de­signed for hu­man per­cep­tion, which tol­er­ates a fairly high de­gree of de­lay. On a phone call, for ex­am­ple, a 50-mil­lisec­ond wait is im­per­cep­ti­ble to the hu­man brain. Power grids, on the other hand, need a con­sis­tent la­tency of 20 mil­lisec­onds or less. To sup­port con­nected grids, “smart” ro­bots and other ma­chines, next-gen­er­a­tion net­works will need to be faster and have even greater ca­pac­ity.

Third, the net­works of to­mor­row will need to be au­to­mated, self-op­ti­miz­ing and self-re­pair­ing. Ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence will al­low ba­sic net­work func­tions to be placed on au­topi­lot, and sim­ple eco­nom­ics will make this a ne­ces­sity. Once the in­ter­net of things starts sup­port­ing bil­lions of con­nec­tions among cars, trains, fac­to­ries and hospi­tals, op­er­at­ing costs will sky­rocket un­less net­works can be main­tained with lit­tle hu­man in­ter­ven­tion.

And fi­nally, to bring the in­ter­net of things to life, pol­i­cy­mak­ers will need to sup­port the de­vel­op­ment of ad­vanced net­works that can trans­mit larger vol­umes of data faster. In par­tic­u­lar, the wire­less spec­trum — air­waves across which data travel in­vis­i­bly to and from con­nected de­vices — will form the ba­sis of many dig­i­tal ser­vices. But spec­trum, just like water and oil, is a lim­ited re­source. Most coun­tries will need to re­lease more spec­trum space for wire­less com­mu­ni­ca­tions, in­creas­ing us­able air­waves by any­where from 50 to 100 per­cent.

Ev­ery busi­ness in ev­ery in­dus­try can ben­e­fit from these ad­vances. But to re­al­ize this fu­ture, we must be­gin think­ing dif­fer­ently about how net­works and busi­ness mod­els in­ter­act. Af­ter all, in a world of deep­en­ing con­nec­tions, every­thing is a po­ten­tial new sub­scriber.

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