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Thought 5G would boost smart living? Maybe not

Thought 5G would boost smart living? Maybe not
The fifth-generation wireless systems, often referred to as 5G, is expected to become widely popular in the coming years.
The fifth-generation wireless systems, often referred to as 5G, is expected to become widely popular in the coming years. With data transmission speeds that were not possible before, the new technology could potentially open up new opportunities in automation and give a major push to smart living. 

Or, would it, really? Not so much, according to the research firm Gartner. In a recently-published write-up, Jessica Ekholm, Research VP at the organization suggested that 5G would only “marginally” fuel end user spending on smart homes, smart lighting, energy monitoring, and smart appliances.  

“5G may be adopted as an alternative to fixed wireless for those users who may get better — faster, more efficient, less latency— broadband via 5G than their current fixed access,” Ekholm said, adding that the research firm expects households to utilize 5G mainly for video and security surveillance. Other applications, to a much lesser degree, would include augmented and virtual reality. 

While the number of smart home and smart living services continues to go up, the adoption rate of these technologies has not risen as much as the industry would like. 

“The adoption rate remains, however, very slow,” Ekholm noted. “According to Gartner’s latest personal tech survey, 12 percent of users in the UK, US, and Germany use some form of smart energy controls such as thermostats or lighting. Another 7 percent use some type of smart home access device, such as smart door locks, with a slightly higher usage in the US and UK than in Germany.”

However, some recent developments have improved the prospects for the industry. Gartner indicated that the rise of virtual personal assistants such as Google Home and Amazon Alexa appears to have touched a chord with the consumers. These virtual personal assistants are increasingly connecting more and more smart home solutions such as lighting. 

Ultimately, though, solution providers will need to concentrate their efforts on new markets and invest in going beyond the early adopters. However, this is a challenging task as the needs of the customers vary and many of them could remain wary of the value of a product in the longer term. 

Ekholm suggests that as more and more devices become integrated into the IoT network, consumers will eventually understand the benefits of using smarter devices. 

 “Users are increasingly becoming aware of the ability to connect and receive constant insights about themselves and how their day is progressing through the plethora of connected devices and technologies, from wearables to connected cars,” she pointed out. “The ability to get insights about you or your daily activity across multiple devices —and control and monitor your home — will slowly but surely attract a more mainstream consumer base. Our household is increasingly becoming connected, and undoubtedly, providers in this space are in it for the long haul, not the short haul.”

Nevertheless, coming back to the topic of 5G, analysts remain skeptical about service providers generating revenue from the new wireless technology as they used to from 4G. Consumers, on their part, may not be able to see the real need for 5G as the applications they may be using would not require higher speeds. This could mean that communications service providers will have to be open to considering new business models, especially from a need-oriented perspective. 

“The launch of 5G will undoubtedly be confusing for users who understand the exact usages of, and need for, 5G,” Ekholm said. “As such, CSPs need to carefully consider how they market 5G, and not fall into the same trap as some did previously when marketing 4G in its early days — that is, overhyping its capabilities and/or marketing 3G+ as 4G.”
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