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article imageWhy the digitization of operational processes needs 5G Special

By Tim Sandle     Oct 5, 2020 in Business
5G has become an integral part of digital transformation strategies for many companies. As some firms strive forwards, those without business tactics centered on 5G will see themselves lagging behind. An expert explains more.
To discuss the importance of 5G and how this can integrate into digital strategy, Digital Journal spoke with Ian Ferguson of Lynx Software Technologies. Ferguson details the power of 5G beyond what has been covered in most of the business media.
Digital Journal: What has most 5G coverage entailed, in the business context?
Ian Ferguson: I recently read a news piece about the digitization of processes, where companies like Nokia are using drones and AI to help accelerate the deployment of 5G networks. It was interesting as most of the pieces about 5G have been about the elements of this technology that a customer can tangibly see (e.g. above the waterline), such as improved performance and, more importantly for industrial and automotive applications, improved latency. Most articles discuss the digital transformation of (end) businesses that this will enable.
DJ: What are the key aspects for a 5G-based digital business strategy?
Ferguson: The digitization of operational processes that are typically hidden from the end user got me thinking around three main themes:
Data: Will this data be used purely by a company like Nokia to improve operational costs of managing a network or will some portion of the data be valued by the end customers? Service providers have struggled to shift their businesses to deliver more valuable services on top of the basic “data pipe” network access services. Could the digitization of the operation of the network offer monetizable services around network robustness, performance and availability?
Network Owner Disruption: If these networks can be managed with less human-driven processes, can this enable Nokia to offer end customers to own and customize their own networks? Does this help network infrastructure providers to compete with the traditional service providers? At Lynx we are particularly excited about the opportunity to deploy 5G technology as private networks in settings such as factories and warehouses.
System Architecture: There has been quite a lot of arguments about the ideal system architectures for these platforms. Some companies have taken the path of shifting a lot of functionality into software and running the applications on what is basically general-purpose server platforms. Others have argued that there is an absolute need to harness custom hardware in order to meet performance requirements. The reality is that existing systems are a blend of both. Xilinx’s FPGAs have, among other approaches, been used to implement performance-critical algorithms into hardware. Overall, I do think that the need to adjust the functionality of deployed systems is causing this industry to increasingly shift towards the deployment of more functions in software than in hardware.
DJ: What other manual processes that lay beneath the surface are ripe for implementation using digital technology?
Ferguson: Construction of sensor technology continues to improve. Can drones reduce the number of manual processes needed to approve the quality of a road or building repair? Indeed, this technology probably can be deployed to predict the next places where a repair maybe needed.
Technology that can help alleviate the mountain of paperwork in the healthcare industry is in hot demand. Technology could make such a difference in this industry including the diagnosis and treatment of patients, but behind the scenes, there are less sexy processes which must be brought up to the 21st century. It is ridiculous how many forms are still required to be completed every time someone has to make a visit to the doctors.
DJ: What about security concerns?
Ferguson: Now it goes without saying (but I will say it anyway) that these digital processes must be implemented safely and securely. There are still too many IoT platforms coming to the market which use unencrypted and unauthenticated communication channels. The latest scary example is this coffee machine which demanded a ransom before it would brew coffee. The value of the data is so much more valuable, so security must be a fundamental pillar of the implementation as opposed to being an afterthought.
DJ: Any final thoughts?
Ferguson: So, yes, 5G is a new network technology. It is going to have a tremendous impact on changing industries such as city infrastructure, manufacturing and automotive. But this use case points to opportunities of further disruption in the telecoms industry and beyond.
More about digital transformation, 5G, digital strategy, Communication
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