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I'd been hearing a lot about 5G recently from a few people I know, and one of the frequent claims that I heard was, "5G is going to be such a great help for the Internet of Things!"

I may be a hopeless cynic, but I began to wonder, just why would this be the case? After all, the majority of IoT doesn't involve the transfer of huge amounts of data. Furthermore, it doesn't seem like an extra second or two of delay will make a lot of difference for your smart washing machine or even your lights. Hey, they already seem fast enough to me.

So why would 5G be a plus for the Internet of Things?

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One thing that should be noted is that 5G will not just improve network performance from a single user perspective, but will also utilise bandwidth more efficiently; more devices will be served by a single base station.

One enabling technology should be of particular interest to the IoT community: Massive MIMO. Massive MIMO has the potential to be used for energy harvesting. From the linked paper:

To achieve this, the BSs can transmit dedicated RF signals on the DL and perform energy beamforming so as to provide uninterrupted wireless energy transfer (WET) to the UEs. Alternatively, the BSs can attempt simultaneous wireless information and power transfer (SWIPT), where the DL RF signals are used to simultaneously transport both energy and information to the UEs. MM is particularly suitable for such RF EH applications because the large array gains offered by MM can increase the energy transfer efficiency of RF signals

To be clear, energy harvesting is not part of the 5G specification and I don't have any good information on the maturity of this technology. In 2016 I attended a presentation from Lund university where I understood that a proof of concept for massive MIMO energy harvesting was planned. I've not heard anything more following.

If 5G is a step towards powering IoT devices wirelessly the that is pretty exciting, but event without that the increased device density it will offer is of serious interest.

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As I began to research this, I ran across this article from NetworkWorld.com. There were several things I hadn't thought of which they pointed out.

Basically, it's not just speed that's changing in 5G. It's also reliability in low latency connections. This opens the door for some areas where rapidly forming connections with unknown devices.

One of the primary advantages of these connections is actually in the automotive business. As automated driving becomes more and more prevalent, one thing that will become necessary is rapid communication with other vehicles, pedestrians, etc. Having a very reliably low latency connection with other vehicles will enable them to coordinate manoeuvres, share their intents, etc.

Closely related is the implementation of mMTC, which specializes in the rapid transfer of small packets. This will undoubtedly be helpful in industry, where various machines must communicate with one another rapidly, but don't need to transfer massive quantities of information.

  • You found a key feature that I have also heard off, low latency and scenarios where low latency is critical. IoT os NOT only turning on the light in the room, read the temperature, IoT will change in many new directions, but thats my opinion. – MatsK Apr 13 '18 at 13:13

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