The role of 5G in bringing the reality of smart cities closer

5G is expected to have an impact on many industries, from manufacturing to healthcare.

It will enable the creation of a connected infrastructure, such as smart electrical grids that will be able to monitor and analyse energy consumption, smart streetlights with gunshot detectors to improve police threat response, and connected traffic lights across the city to facilitate a seamless flow of traffic. 5G is a key element in making smart cities a reality and, in the shorter term, it will transform the way we travel around cities.

There are several ways in which 5G will change transportation and they are all interdependent. First of all, 5G will help to create a network of interconnected vehicles and provide almost instant communication between these devices. In order to reach real-time communication, vehicles need to be receiving and sending data as fast as possible, which means sending it directly to other vehicles, rather than through a database. Such communication requires an out-of-vehicle connection as the technology used for in-vehicle connectivity does not require a constant mobile signal. In fact, today vehicles are processing the information they receive on board making them somewhat of a computer on wheels. As 5G becomes widespread, all the processing will happen in the cloud, with a signal that will not bounce off buildings, vehicles and other surfaces. 

Once 5G has become ubiquitous, the network will have two types of vehicle communication: vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I). At first, these will be used in manned vehicles, before being developed for autonomous vehicles. 5G is instrumental to this, as self-driving cars will need to respond to surroundings instantaneously. With the current 4G connection speed, they can do so in about 26 milliseconds, but 5G will reduce this to just 10. This has a lasting positive impact not only on autonomous decision-making and the smoothness of a commute, but also on the safety of drivers, pedestrians and the entire city.

V2V will allow for smoother trips, which will eventually reduce exhaust emissions while allowing public transport to run more efficiently. For example, if there is an accident on the road ahead or cars are breaking sharply, the closest car could almost instantly communicate this information to the ones behind. In turn, they can start changing their routes to avoid creating congestion. Moreover, cars communicating with public transport will be able to plan alternative routes to help commuters choose the fastest journey.

Communication to surroundings, or V2I, will create a connected ecosystem where the movement of transport in a city is not chaotic, but hive-like. Going back to the previous example of a collision on the road where one car alerted other vehicles through V2V, with V2I communication, that same car will help other vehicles react to the road before they get to the collision. Cars can then communicate back to the infrastructure – such as displays on the side of the road and traffic lights – which can display information about the collision ahead along with detour information. 

This Internet of Transport can do more than just reduce traffic and make roads safer. It will help local governments to map the movement of all vehicles, allowing for real-time traffic management and visualisation of the flow and capacity of a city. Connected vehicles will also contribute to the development of ride-hailing services, as V2C and V2I enable precise real-time location tracking, understanding a vehicle’s usage and fuel consumption.

To reach this connected future, several improvements need to be made to infrastructure. The next generation of mobile technologies will require physical changes to the existing network architecture. At this point, hardware such as new antennae will need to be set up to allow for optimised capacity. With this in mind, it seems that the future of connected transport is in the hands of governments and providers.

About the Author

Johan Herrlin is the CEO at Ito World. With over 20 years’ experience delivering solutions in the geospatial industry, Johan’s vision is to enable the smarter movement of people by providing real-time transit data and data visualisation. Before Ito World, he was a company director at Esri, the world’s leading provider of geospatial software.

Featured image: ©rigamondis