How 5G Mobile Data will propel Artificial Intelligence (AI) progress

5G is going to be incredibly fast by modern standards

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Like it’s predecessors, 3G and 4G, 5G refers to the latest ‘G’ – Generation – of mobile technology. 5G will give us very fast – effectively infinitely fast – mobile data download bandwidth.

Downloading a TV show to your phone over 5G, in its entirety, in HD, will take less than a second, for example. A podcast will be downloaded within a fraction of a second of you requesting it.

Scratch the surface of 5G, however, and there is a great deal more to see than just fast mobile data speeds.  5G is the backbone on which a lot of emerging technologies such as AI, blockchains, IoT among others will reach mainstream adoption. Today, we look at how 5G will accelerate AI growth and adoption.

5G will create the data AI needs to thrive

One feature of 5G with ramifications beyond data speed is ‘Latency.’ 5G offers virtually ‘Zero Latency’ as a service.


Latency is the time needed to transmit a packet of data from one device to another. It includes the period of time between when the request was made, to the time the response is completed.

5G has a number of impressive features. Fast mobile data is the headline but, potentially even more important is the virtual immediate latency response.
5G will be superfast – but will also benefit from near zero ‘latency’

Source: Economist

At the moment, we keep files (music, pictures or films) in our phones’ memory permanently. We have plenty of processing power on our devices. In fact, the main upgrade between phone generations these days is a faster processor. In a 5G world, we will be able to use cheap parts in our devices – processors and memory in our new phones.

Data downloads will be so fast, that we can get them immediately when we need them. We won’t need to store information on the phone unless we want to.  Even if the files are downloaded from the cloud, because the network has zero latency – he or she feels like the files are on the phone. In other words, you are guaranteed a seamless user experience in a 5G world.

The upshot of all this is that the majority of any new data which is generated from mobile products will move to the cloud for storage.

At their most fundamental level, AI algorithms are pattern matching tools. The bigger the data trove, the faster and better performing the results of AI analysis is. These new structured data sets, created by 5G, will be available from the place where it is easiest to extract and manipulate (‘Analyze’) it – the cloud.

There will be 100 billion 5G devices connected to cellular networks by 2025, according to Huawei. 5G is going to generate data from those devices, and all the smartphones in the world and send it all back to the cloud. That data is the source of the incredible power AI gives businesses.

5G driving AI in autonomous vehicles

5G’s features and this Cloud / Connected Device future, will manifest itself in many ways. One very visible example is how 5G will supercharge the contribution, especially to reliability and safety, that AI can make to self driving cars.

A great deal of the AI processing that is required to keep a self driving car operating safely, will be done by computers on board the vehicle. However, 5G’s facilities to communicate large amounts of data quickly will mean that any unusual inputs (for example, the car is entering or in a crash situation) can be sent to bigger computing equipment on the cloud which could perform more serious processing.

Zero latency is important in these situations for commands which might come from a centralized accident computer, designed to increase safety– for example issuing the command ‘break.’

In fact, according to manufacturers, it’s likely that, ultimately, groups of cars will be coordinated by AI using 5G to control the vehicles in a model known as swarm computing.

5G will make AI much more useful with ‘context’ – Intel

5G will power AI by providing location information which can be considered in establishing the context of questions asked of the tool – according to Intel’s Data Center Group.

For example, asking your Digital Assistant where the tablets are means something different depending on whether you’re in a pharmacy or an electronics store.

The nature of 5G is that it’s a mobile service. Location information is both key to context and an inherent element of information sent over a 5G connection. By communicating where they are, 5G sensors will help AI based Digital Assistants solve our everyday problems.

5G phones will enable  AI calculations on ‘Edge’ network devices  – ARM

5G will push some processing to the ‘Edge’ of the network, for manipulation by a growing range of AI chips on to the processors of phones. In this regard, smartphones like any Internet Of Things connected processor ‘in the field’ are simply an ‘AI platform’.

Handset manufacturers are including new software features in their phones that customers love to use – including AI based search interfaces which allow them to search for images containing ‘heads’ and see an accurate list.

Arm are designing new types of chips targeted at AI calculations on ‘Edge’ network devices.
Arm are designing new types of chips targeted at AI calculations on ‘Edge’ network devices.

Source: Arm’s Project Trillium

ARM, one of the world’s largest CPU producers are creating specific, dedicated AI chip sets, often derived from the technology that was behind their Graphics Processing Units. These chips process AI based calculations up to 50 times faster than standard microprocessors already and their performance is set to improve 50x over the next 3 years, according to the company.

AI is part of 5G networks – Huawei

Huawei describes itself as an AI company (as well as a number of other things including handset manufacturer.) They are one of the biggest electronic manufacturers in China and are currently in the process of selling networking products to the world’s telecommunications companies, as they prepare to roll out their 5G networks.

Based on the insight that 70% of network system downtime comes from human error, Huawei is now eliminating humans from the network management component of their work, to the degree that they can. Instead, they’re implementing automated AI based predictive maintenance systems to increase data throughput across the network and reduce downtime.

The way we use cellular networks is changing. Different applications require different backend traffic to be routed across the network, depending on the customer need. Someone watching video, for example, has a far lower tolerance for a disruption to the data throughput (the ‘stuttering Netflix’ effect) than a connected IoT sensor which is trying to communicate the temperature of a thermometer.

Huawei’s network maintenance AI software optimizes these different package needs, maintaining the near zero latency that the standard demands at a lower cost.

AI based network maintenance complete a virtuous loop in which 5G devices on new cellular networks give AI the raw data they need, including valuable context information, and AI helps the data flow across the 5G network better.

Bringing it all together

5G and artificial intelligence (AI) are revolutionary technologies that will evolve alongside each other.

5G isn’t just fast data, it’s one of the most important technologies ever devised. Just as the smartphone did, it will fundamentally change how we relate to information, partly, because it will link us to thousands of newly connected devices on the Internet of Things.

Ultimately, it could be the secondary effects of 5G, the network’s almost zero latency, which could provide the largest benefit – by creating structured data sets from billions of connected devices, in an easily accessible place – the cloud which can be used to fuel the AI algorithms which run on them. Networking equipment, chip manufacturers and governments have all connected the importance of AI with the potential of 5G.

Commercial sales of 5G start in The US, UK and Australia in 2019.

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Neil Aitken is the editor in chief for WhatPhone.com.au. He has worked on small business telephony solutions in the past and has written on the subject of telco trends, innovation and SIM Plans for Business Insider, The Sydney Morning Herald, Vodafone Australia and Savings Room, one of Australia’s leading blogs. He is interested in everything about AI including robots with artificial intelligence, machine learning, smartphones, latest AI assistants and the likes.

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