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5G will aid the road to recovery

22 Jun 2020

Sabrina Baggioni

5G Program Director, Vodafone Italy

Low-latency and speed are often touted as two of the most important characteristics of 5G, and rightly so. However, there is one key advantage that is often overlooked: flexibility.

Flexing the 5G muscle

For businesses, flexibility means being able to respond to a different or unexpected input in an effective way, producing valuable results. If a production line is flexible it means it can, for instance, adapt instantly to reflect new regulations when assembling products, saving money, time and wastage. This is a great advantage for the producer as well as the ultimate customer and the environment.

The importance of this aspect of 5G has been highlighted during the current Covid-19 crisis, especially looking at the future and how technology communications companies can aid the restart of the economy after a long period of inactivity. 

The need to deploy solutions at speed and adapt to unforeseen circumstances, be it to change the configurations of areas within hospitals or adjust supply chains according to a surge in demand, have been crucial.

Another kind of speed

As a wireless technology, 5G offers a lot of advantages over fixed solutions like fibre. It can be set up in no time, without the need for infrastructure changes that come with cabling.

This also means it will be possible to scale 5G according to the real need, at any point, without having to lay down new cables.

Let’s say medical scanning machines need to be moved to another section of a hospital to free-up space for intensive care beds. Thanks to 5G, doctors could still share high definition diagnostic images of patients’ scans in real time, no matter where they are located.

These images could then be sent to experts around the world thanks to 5G’s very low latency and high bandwidth. This allows a continuous flow of information between hospitals and within different departments in healthcare facilities, without any barrier or limitation.

These images could as easily be sent to experts around the world using the very low latency and high bandwidth on the network. This allows a continuous flow of information between hospitals and within different departments without limitation.

Building the future together

This example is not just a theory - we have been working on 5G trials for two years in Milan now and I am incredibly proud that, although not fully deployed, we have already been able to offer a hospital a 5G solution that has really made a difference during the Covid-19 emergency.

As part of this project we have collaborated with the Humanitas Research Hospital in two locations across the city, focused on the radiology department.

Getting the scans done the way doctors require them has always been an issue for radiologists and they sometimes need to repeat the exams for clearer insights or better details.

Using 5G allows a doctor can see the scanned images while they are taken by the radiologist as if they were together in the radiology room. It means they can work together in real time to fine-tune the scan and focus on specific areas.

This has proven to be very helpful during the Covid-19 emergency when doctors’ and patients’ movements had to be minimised. And as the data remains on an operator’s network, 5G also provides end-to-end security.

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With 5G, re-organising hospital layouts doesn’t need to impact services.

A new era for healthcare

The benefits of 5G in healthcare are not limited to hospitals. Wearable devices will also become increasingly sophisticated and widespread.

It will soon be possible to monitor in real-time a complete series of patients’ biometric data from home, providing not just the data flow but also alarms and insights through AI algorithms to help healthcare practitioners.

Doctors can be on board the ambulances together with paramedics using high definition video streaming supporting them in real time through augmented reality technology, powered by 5G.

Remote surgery is even being trailed with 5G, with early tests performing to the same level of accuracy as with the surgeon in the operating theatre. These are two projects that we have been working on as part of our 5G trial in Milan over the past 24 months.

5G is also ideal for artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms to process data close to the source using multi-access edge computing. In a healthcare environment, for example, this will offer workers a real-time, holistic analysis of the situation, allowing them to manage patients’ data much more effectively and quickly.

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Augmented Reality could help paramedics work with doctors before they reach the hospital.

Beyond the emergency

The restrictions imposed by governments during the Covid-19 emergency have accelerated trends that were still in their infancy only a few months before. The way people consume entertainment and work, for instance, has been radically changed by this pandemic.

Both will be hugely improved by 5G, from enhancing virtual reality to enabling co-workers to share real-time remote experiences or digital twins.

I live in Milan, a city in the area of Italy most affected by the novel Coronavirus, and everyone here has accepted a lot will change in society, at a much faster pace than expected.

I believe 5G definitely has a role to play in making our new way of life better for everyone in society. And over the last few, difficult months, we have never stopped working and looking at ways to make this possible.

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