The quest for greater sustainability is driving citizens, governments, international organizations, and businesses around the world to strive to ward off the clear and present danger of global warming. Technology has already contributed to this mission, from facilitating the shift to renewables to improving efficiency within all kinds of companies. Some of the newest technologies, like the Internet of Things (IoT) and the 5G standard for broadband cellular networks, can – and will – play an even more substantial role in accelerating the drive toward sustainability. According to Ericsson, 5G and IoT are forecasted to curtail global emissions by up to 15% by 2030.
Technologies that improve sustainability do more than help reduce a company’s carbon footprint. 5G technology, for example, can be a critical part of the foundation for more efficient operations, reducing costs and improving the bottom line. The sustainability improvements offered by 5G technology and others can improve a company’s reputation and become a source of competitive advantage.
5G and Its Impact on Global Sustainability Goals
5G can play a decisive role for achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, proposed by the United Nations in 2015. The Agenda comprises multiple sustainable development goals (SDGs) related to various themes such as education, healthcare, climate action, smart cities, and others. For example, 5G can dramatically improve remote learning opportunities through instant interactivity, without much energy consumption. In healthcare, virtual reality technology and 3D imaging enabled by 5G connectivity will allow surgeons to handle operations taking place thousands of miles away and train aspiring doctors. 5G-ready private wireless networks can help drive the development of smart cities and communities through self-communicating urban infrastructure.
5G is More Efficient
The demand for more transparent disclosure about energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions means that the quest for energy efficiency will get more intense. 5G can help (particularly for mobile network operators), because it is inherently more energy efficient compared to earlier generations of mobile technologies. Simply by replacing older technologies with 5G, companies will reduce their energy consumption through improved power management.
But 5G can also improve sustainability by virtue of enabling new operating models, particularly when 5G is merged with other contemporary technologies like cloud computing, artificial intelligence, IoT, and big data. Here are some example of specific sectors where 5G can play a key role in sustainability:
Manufacturing is one of the biggest consumers of energy and will be the most responsive to advancements led by 5G and related technologies. Manufacturers can increase their agility by connecting next-generation robots and machines wirelessly with 5G, using digital twins to support predictive maintenance and reduce faults. Moreover, AI analytics can be used to automatically analyse output, efficiency, power consumption, and other factors in order to optimise performance – which leads to lower energy needs and reduces the carbon footprint. These same solutions can also optimize the movement of finished goods. Efficient supply-chain coordination and AI-enhanced planning can save significant amounts of energy by reducing the volume of vehicle journeys and warehousing, and by reducing waste.
Healthcare can get more sustainable by using 5G to enable telemedicine for extremely high-quality remote consultations. Doctors can remotely diagnose a patient’s condition and suggest suitable treatment plans by collaborating with peers through multiscreen discussions or by giving annotations. Telemedicine reduces the need for transport to and from healthcare facilities, reducing emissions.
Transportation generates about one third of total emissions in many parts of the world and is a part of every industry sector. 5G can have a powerful impact on this critical segment. By combining 5G with AI and IoT, transportation efficiency can be increased – for example, by enabling real-time route optimization and analysing congestion patterns.
Smart cities offer one of the best examples of how 5G can interconnect with emerging technologies such as IoT, edge computing, and AI-enhanced big data analytics to support a more efficient, digital, and sustainable way of living, working, and travelling. Cities contain immense infrastructures, systems, and processes such as waste management, lighting, transportation, energy management, and more. A unified, digital platform using 5G to connect public and private entities can lead to substantial sustainability improvements.
Over the next few years, the rollout of 5G technology will accelerate dramatically. Ultimately, the adoption of 5G will provide the flexibility to forecast, identify, enhance, and measure the impact of every decision through data – generating powerful benefits for enterprises of all kinds (and for consumers). But it will also have a real, positive impact on the environment and sustainability—generating powerful benefits for literally everyone on earth.
For telecommunications providers and mobile network operators, 5G is the future, and they are working on integrating 5G into their platforms now. But now is also a good time for enterprises engaged in manufacturing, transportation, healthcare, and city planning to consider evaluating the potential for 5G in their spheres to advance both their business demands and their sustainability objectives. Wipro helps enterprises in many sectors to develop innovative digital solutions and, more and more, is applying 5G technology as part of business transformation and the drive towards sustainability.