5G technology will be key for future projects in the smart buildings segment as building owners and managers will be able to use this tech to improve services at buildings and integrate 5G with other technologies such as artificial intelligence and IoT. To know how 5G can positively impact the smart buildings field and interact with other applications, In-Building Tech interviewed Gregory Dial, executive vice president of corporate and market strategy at JMA Wireless.
Q: How important is 5G technology for the smart buildings field and why? How this technology can improve building operations/management and in which specific areas?
A: 5G, paired with the ability to support things like private wireless networks, is going to be extremely important to not only smart buildings, but also many other critical infrastructure industries like manufacturing, transportation, large venue management, etc. With 5G, you not only have improved speeds and lower latency, but also the ability to connect massive amounts of sensors and to process that information in real time. These sensors will form the central nervous system of the building, allowing maintenance or support staff to not only address issues immediately, but get ahead of potential issues employing new technologies like machine learning, computer vision, and artificial intelligence. 5G paired with private network capability and the added value of putting more compute power at the edge of the network will truly start to automate critical operations. General examples could be automated sensors that report in on elevator maintenance or control things like automated lighting or temperate settings based on people movement. Back office functions like content delivery can be much more efficient over 5G private networks, delivering content directly on site. Hosting specific applications on local networks like augmented and virtual reality, gaming, and other high bandwidth/low latency intensive applications will also be possible. In short, in-building 5G and private networks will significantly push the limits of automation.
Q: What are the main challenges/obstacles for the deployment of 5G in smart buildings?
A: Ease of install and simplicity of management is critical. These networks need to be something that a standard IT workforce can understand in order to maximize usability and minimize the learning curve. In other words, these networks need to be targeted to a different audience than in the past. What took wireless engineers to set up and maintain needs to simplify to the point where data can be viewed and controlled through very simple dashboards. If critical applications all sit on different platforms with different management dashboards, automation and overall continuity won’t be realized and could stifle adoption. A key piece of this transition is moving to software based solutions. Custom, hardware based solutions will not have the ability to scale or change at the pace that’s required. This is traditionally where telco vendors have resisted change, but it’s now table stakes to ensure mass adoption and keep pace with technical progress.
Q: How do you think 5G can interact with other emerging technologies such as IoT and artificial intelligence to further improve smart buildings?
A: We believe that this is the critical link. 5G speeds and low latency to things like smartphones are important, but it’s those technology pairings that will really drive major breakthroughs. 5G paired with private wireless networks, paired with IoT, paired with edge compute that allows high end functions like AI to run. 5G is simple a standard that allows data to move faster over the air, the architecture of the networks that support 5G are truly what will make it unique. Again, software based platforms and having resources as close to the user as possible are critical. This is as much about where the technology is located and the overall platform flexibility as it is about over the air speed.
Q: Do you think that the real estate sector is already aware of the benefits of these technologies?
A: We believe that we are in the early stages. 5G is largely seen as smartphone centric by most. Private wireless networks, initially starting on 4G / CBRS, will be a major catalyst to see exactly what could be done with the technology. For multi-use spaces like the real estate sector, element like network slicing and variable quality of service will be critical. Many of these themes are not evident on 4G LTE or Wi-Fi today, so grasping those concepts and how to use them to monetize things like unlicensed spectrum will be major eye openers. 2020 is the year of seeing that light bulb go on with private wireless and it will catch fire in 2021 and beyond as those private wireless networks move to 5G and we see a massive ecosystem emerge around IoT and edge based intelligence.