Fifth generation wireless networks, otherwise known as 5G networks, are the latest iteration of wireless cellular technology aiming to bring greater speeds, reliability, security, and connectivity to wireless networks. 5G technologies are some of the most exciting currently being developed, largely due to their potential to further drive and advance what is being dubbed as the Fourth Industrial Revolution. In this three-part series of articles focusing on 5G, we’ll be looking at how 5G will improve wireless networks, how it could very well become essential for both public and emergency services and its role in potentially bringing about a second IoT explosion.
Over the past few decades there have been innumerable examples of how, despite our best efforts, we humans are still vulnerable to a plethora of man-made dangers and natural hazards. When the worst does happen, and emergency assistance or immediate medical treatment is required, it is essential that first responders and emergency service personnel are equipped with everything they need, including an appropriate network connection.
With technological advances enabling more efficient, better prepared and higher quality healthcare and emergency services than at any other time in history, the underlying foundational architectures that will enable us to utilise the emergency service innovations of tomorrow will need to put down. This is where 5G technologies will likely become essential.
In the second article of our three-part series on 5G, we’ll be looking at some of the ways in which 5G networks will advance and improve emergency services, starting with 5G-powered super-ambulances.
Ambulance operations are an essential part of the emergency services and over the past few decades have become increasingly advanced, featuring a not insignificant number of fairly high-tech medical equipment and devices. With the widespread roll-out of 5G wireless communications networks, however, these traditional ambulances could soon make way for 5G-powered super-ambulances.
Features such as high-definition video communication, computed tomography (CT), and X-ray scans would connect to both the emergency vehicle itself as well as to the hospital or emergency department that the ambulance was either dispatched from or on route to. Lower levels of latency and enhanced speed and reliability make 5G wireless networks an ideal architecture to base such services on.
By allowing for constant, reliable, and high-quality communications between both the super-ambulance and the emergency center, 5G networks could allow for remote diagnosis from doctors stationed in specialty departments that were not local to the scene of the accident or emergency.
By collecting as much medical and observational data as possible on-board the vehicle itself, super-ambulances would also collect and send this data to their destination, prepping the hospital for incoming patients before they arrive as well as enabling more time to diagnose them.
Fire-fighting & Medical Delivery Drones
Drones are never too far away these days, it would seem. From companies like Amazon that are planning on utilizing them for delivery services to their various uses in safety, surveillance or entertainment, remote controlled drones are becoming an increasingly common aspect of modern life.
Despite having been commercially available for some time now, it has taken up until fairly recently for drones to become credible candidates for utilization within emergency services.
Firefighting, for example, is one way in which multiple drones, operating on a 5G network and being remotely controlled by a human operator, could be used to tackle emergency or natural disaster situations more effectively while also reducing the risk to human lives.
The delivery of emergency medical supplies to hospitals or disaster areas is another way in which 5G wireless communications networks could allow drones to enhance the methods and technological resources of emergency services and disaster relief efforts, minimizing the risk of delays such as traffic or human error in the delivery of vital assets.
Be it deliveries, surveillance, entertainment, emergency medical transportation, firefighting, or any other application of drones, 5G networks will ensure they become a feasible solution to these and many other challenges into the future.
ITS Prioritization & Network Slicing
Some of the more technical benefits of 5G wireless communications networks for emergency and public services would be the ability of these kinds of networks to allow for the prioritization of vehicles using intelligent transportation systems (ITS) and their capability for network slicing, which essentially guarantees that the network services used by medical or any other mission critical industries are not interrupted or affected by increases in the usage of others nearby.
Using 5G wireless communications systems to communicate, emergency service vehicles, like the super-ambulances detailed in the first section, would be able to alert traffic management systems of their approach and enable them to modify traffic so as to provide and optimal route for the emergency service vehicle to its destination.
In fact, 5G networks and intelligent transportation systems will likely shape and drive each other’s destiny for some time.
Network slicing in particular has become something of a big deal for both public, industrial and emergency services and first responders as one of the biggest challenges during the terrorist attacks on the WTC in 2001 and on the London underground in 2007, and during countless natural disasters, were maintaining adequate communications between emergency services, disaster relief teams, and the various search and rescue teams involved.
In the future, it is hoped that 5G networks, alongside some of the other technologies described in this article, will be able to significantly enhance and improve both public and emergency services through the use of advanced and innovative medical and communications technologies.
In the final part of this three-part series, we’ll be looking at five reasons why both network functions virtualization and software-defined networking could both be the catalysts for a second IoT explosion.