Titled The Mobile Economy 2021, the report further notes that "Mobile has been particularly instrumental during this period, keeping people connected and underpinning new services in response to the pandemic. Around the world, the exceptional scale and utility of mobile networks and services have":
- enabled people to work and learn remotely, stay in touch with loved ones, and perform many other everyday activities online
- supported innovative health solutions, such as remote patient monitoring and contact tracing, to control the spread of the virus
- provided a platform for people to access digital financial services, given efforts to reduce the reliance on cash
- facilitated the safe and efficient distribution of social welfare to vulnerable people
- generated valuable insights on mobility patterns from anonymized and aggregated mobile big data to inform government response measures at various stages of the pandemic.
In addition to highlighting the crucial role mobile technology will play as governments look to reinvigorate their economies and build a better, more inclusive society, the report outlines a series of policy recommendations for shaping the post-pandemic digital economy, from direct stimulus funds and balancing policies for personal data to removing barriers to network deployment.
Other key findings include:
- By the end of 2025, 5G will account for just over a fifth of total mobile connections, and more than two in five people around the world will live within reach of a 5G network.
- Although 4G has significant headroom for growth; Globally, 4G is expected to peak at just under 60% by 2023 as 5G begins to gain traction in new markets. In leading 5G markets such as China, South Korea, and the US, 4G has peaked and, in some cases, begun to decline.
With respect to the mobile industry's efforts to tackle climate issues, the report notes that "In April 2021, the mobile sector was credited by the United Nations (UN) for achieving a critical breakthrough towards its mission of combatting climate change. Being the first major sector to achieve the rigorous criteria set by the UN's Race to Zero campaign demonstrates the commitment and leadership of mobile operators in the push to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement." Importantly, "This comes at a time when political and economic leaders are giving renewed impetus to delivering a zero-carbon world. Today, 50% of operators by connections and 65% by revenue have committed to science-based targets (SBTs) on the reduction of carbon emissions."
As indicated in a previous post on this blog, while it will several years to build a global 5G network and associated services, I am optimistic about the potential benefits of 5G including hyperfast connections, improved reliability, high capacity and low latency. Telecoms operations will offer hi-tech solutions to businesses through 5G, businesses can use these technologies to transform their operations and optimize efficiency, and governments can create a robust 5G infrastructure to attract investment, create jobs and drive economic growth. GSMA Intelligence, however, points out the need to "develop compelling 5G use cases that leverage the technology's unique capabilities and to support the realization of Industry 4.0 objectives. Commercializing 5G across the consumer and enterprise segments will require the right blend of partnerships, with a combination of capabilities being key to creating value."
To help build use cases, GSMA Intelligence explains that "operators and equipment vendors have invested in 5G labs dedicated to co-creating solutions with partners to address specific needs. These labs, which often include startups, academia, cloud providers and systems integrators, and large enterprises, demonstrate how mobile operators and other ecosystem players can come together to facilitate 5G-enabled digital transformation for society."
Below are a few examples of 5G labs and focus areas by region:
- China Unicom, China Mobile and China Telecom, along with other members of the 5G Slicing Association, including Huawei, China Sports Media and TD Tech, have established a 5G lab on network slicing for enterprises.
- NTT Docomo leads a consortium to develop 5G solutions for industry verticals such as manufacturing and construction. Founding members of the 5G Global Enterprise Solution Consortium include AIS, Fujitsu and NEC.
- Vodafone New Zealand is collaborating with several organizations to explore the development of a variety of 5G use cases, including a 5G drone service for the New Zealand Police and an AI solution for retail stores.
- Europe Orange has established nine 5G labs across France, Romania and Belgium to support the development of new consumer and enterprise applications.
- Verizon has opened a 5G lab and production studio in London to support its international business and media customers. The lab allows startups, academics and enterprises to explore use cases for immersive education, AR/VR gaming, autonomous vehicles, smart cities and IoT.
- STC is collaborating with Saudi Aramco and Huawei to develop 5G use cases for the oil and gas sector and to explore use cases around MEC, 5G slicing and industrial-scale IoT.
- AT&T is working with universities and vendors to develop 5G applications across a variety of areas, including manufacturing and autonomous car applications.
- Verizon is pursuing initiatives with the NFL, Emory Healthcare, Responder Corp., and the US Department of Energy. Focus areas include use cases for healthcare, first responders, autonomous mobility, smart cities, education and retail.
- T-Mobile is a founding partner of the 5G Open Innovation Lab, alongside global tech players, including NASA, Intel and Microsoft, and academic institutions.
Lastly, in explaining how Covid-19 cast a spotlight on IoT applications in healthcare, the report says: "In the wake of the pandemic, healthcare service providers have relied on technologies to enhance service delivery and improve efficiency in the delivery of medical supplies, amid increased demand and social-distancing requirements. IoT underpins many innovative digital health products and solutions for consumers and enterprises, as well as new ways of treating patients remotely. For example, wearable IoT devices, such as smartwatches, are increasingly being used for remote and contactless vital signs monitoring.
The report presents the following examples of IoT-enabled healthcare solutions utilized to support patients during the pandemic:
- Remote patient monitoring: Healthcare professionals use IoT devices to track heart rate, blood pressure and blood glucose levels of patients remotely, particularly the elderly and other vulnerable patients that have had to shield during the pandemic.
- Contact tracing: A number of contract tracing systems implemented around the world rely on IoT-based solutions to track the movement of patients and enforce social distancing in public areas.
- Vaccine cold chain monitoring: IoT platforms have been used to develop cold chain monitoring systems that track the temperature and location of vaccine carriers. For example, the Electronic Vaccine Intelligence Network, developed by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Indian government, has reduced vaccine stock-outs by 80%.
- Hospital sanitization: Non-surgical robots connected to IoT systems have been used to clean patient rooms and to disinfect and sterilize surfaces from Covid-19 contamination with a special UV light and chemicals.
- Automated temperature screening: IoT-enabled thermal imaging systems have been used to identify people with elevated body temperatures before they enter buildings, such as airports, office spaces, schools, shopping centers and hospitals, for further screening.
- Facilities and PPE stock management: IoT system have been used to provide supply-chain planners and policymakers with actionable information on the availability of hospital beds and personal protective equipment (PPE) for medical staff for the efficient allocation of resources.
- Healthcare delivery drones: IoT-enabled drones have been utilized to deliver test kits and results, PPE, medicines and other vital medical supplies, especially in developing regions with poor logistics infrastructure. For example, in Ghana, connected-drone company Zipline is supporting the delivery of vaccines to remote parts of the country.
What IoT-enabled solutions are you seeing or developing?
Aaron Rose is a board member, corporate advisor, and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of GT Perspectives, an online forum focused on turning perspective into opportunity.
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