A quantum shift

5G could revolutionaise the way our infrastructure works

5G could revolutionaise the way our infrastructure works   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Next generation mobile connectivity will go beyond phones to support vehicles, drones, robots, aeroplanes, connected factories and connected cities

The technology world is eagerly looking forward to the advent of the next generation of mobile connectivity, or 5G. Taking into its fold cutting-edge innovations like autonomous cars, smart cities and machine-to-machine communications, it will make the world more interconnected. It’s going to be so transformational that every technology company is gearing up to ensure they are fully equipped for the data-rich, ‘new world order’.

One of the companies that is leading research on this front is Intel. It recently announced the Xeon Processor Scalable family, which the company said represented the biggest platform advancement in this decade. The new product has the design flexibility to take on common applications and mission-critical operations, and also to harness actionable insights from areas like advanced real-time analytics and Artificial Intelligence.

In January, Intel unveiled a 5G modem, with the aim of augmenting computing power and access to cloud resources. The device, with speed exceeding 5Gbps, hundreds of MHz of aggregated bandwidth and ultra-low latency, would lead to significant improvement in the efficiency of self-driving cars, drones, smart-city facilities etc.

Venkata Murthy Renduchintala, President, Client and Internet of Things Businesses and Systems Architecture Group, Intel Corporation, who was in Bengaluru recently, spoke to The Hindu on how 5G would pan out, its challenges and opportunities. Edited excerpts:

In the context of the huge data explosion, how can we get to the most relevant data quickly?

That will happen in two ways. With large amounts of data, you aren’t going to transport that across your network to data centres for aggregation. You need to have data aggregation at the edge of the network. And that will be a fundamental transformation as we move towards 5G. You’d see functions that exist in data centres distributed into the very fabric of the networks. So it’s compute and storage within the fabric of the network to deal with data explosion at the edge of the network, instead of overburdening the network infrastructure.

The other will be Deep Learning, where you have greater context and search precision around the information you are looking for. Essentially, the context of search will be rapidly residualised into data-retrieval criteria, which will quicken the access to the information that you need.

How different will the transition to 5G be?

The move from 4G to 5G will be as profound as the move from analogue to digital. It will be more than merely supporting mobile devices. It will support vehicles, drones, robots, aeroplanes, connected factories and connected cities.

5G is going to be as much about the transformation of the network and the services offered over the network, as it is going to be about the mobile environment. So the infrastructure is going to be tremendously evolved to support the explosive changes in the user environment.

What would the challenges be?

Most of us are familiar with megabytes per day of usage and gigabytes per month. But an autonomous vehicle, for instance, will generate through its sensors and navigational capabilities gigabytes per hour, and terabytes per day and perhaps petabytes per month. You can’t transport that amount of data, from say 150,000 cars, simultaneously. Your network infrastructure will grind to a halt.

How will the network of the future be?

With 5G, you will move from the network being a dimension for Internet telephony and mobile broadband, to the interconnectedness of everything. Smartphone and PC traffic, thought of as the burden of the network, will represent a small proportion of the network bandwidth and traffic.

So what Intel is doing is really reinventing the fabric of network architecture to be able to embed the compute and storage capabilities in the network elements themselves.

The network of the future will have more capability to adapt and evolve as the load and nature of the traffic changes. So concepts such as network function virtualisation and software-defined network would become very important.

5G will offer capabilities like network slicing. An operator can basically say my network is no longer a monolith. A part of the network capacity can be sliced and offered to a customer over here and create a virtual private network for that person.

We hear a lot about the way Artificial Intelligence will change our world. How much is hype and how much is reality?

There is a difference between setting a vision and practical implementation of that vision. I am sure when Orville and Wilbur Wright were going to emulate a bird and fly in the sky, a lot of people probably thought it is just as aspirational as having an automated car.

Maybe having cars driving around without drivers is utopian. But in an urban situation, if you move into autonomous control of the car, and you plug in a route, your route could be centrally planned. Traffic is distributed more optimally around various roads, so that everybody has a predictable way of getting to a certain location, as opposed to everybody thinking they know the fastest route and everyone taking that route.

Just as flight safety has been helped by the autopilot technology, it could be applicable to a vehicle as well. We have in many countries fairly advanced forms of automated driving, like for example, lane deviation, and we are very close to a point where you can go into a semi-automated driving mode. It is more of a legislative environment rather than the technology setting the timeline.

In the context of rapid digitisation in the country, are you partnering with projects?

The Indian government has made some very bold visions of the future through its Digital India initiatives, and a lot of the visions of the Prime Minister and the government in that regard are aligned closely with Intel’s view of the world. There are a lot of opportunities for us, and one of the things we are trying to figure out is what is the right constellation of partnerships and key activities.

Anything specific you are looking at?

When the time is appropriate, we will be able to say more. But certainly for us, India represents a tremendous opportunity, because our general strategic thinking is very much aligned with the whole Digital India programme, and there are a number of key players within India that have aligned thinking with Intel’s.

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Printable version | Feb 20, 2020 4:42:34 PM |

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