As clunky as the phrase sounds, the Internet of Things (IoT) is a growing reality in everyday life and one which will have a huge influence on the shape of society over the coming decades. Smartphone’s and tablets were just the start, with more and more devices requiring internet connectivity to operate and facilitate a range of new functionalities.
From TVs and fridges to watches, thermostats and entire buildings, the IoT is being equated to the ways in which insects communicate and collaborate; devices are the worker bees in the hive of humanity’s future.
The challenge facing users and manufacturers alike in the age of the IoT is that providing connectivity to all of these disparate devices is both essential and incredibly problematic. Many of these gadgets harness convenient wireless signals for networking purposes, but as existing infrastructures become overburdened and more and more bandwidth is taken up by the influx of connected gizmos, new forms of communication need to be developed.
The UK was relatively late to the game in terms of its adoption of 4G, but has since embraced the latest generation of true mobile broadband coverage. Average 4G speeds have exceeded 13Mbps and could theoretically be pushed to 100Mbps using current LTE networks, although the issue with growing data traffic remains.
The answer almost certainly lies in the rollout of faster, higher capacity 5G networking, although the fight to create a standard upon which the various providers and nations involved in its development can agree is just gaining momentum.
Power to the people
Wireless networking is necessarily power-hungry, but this is something that the IoT cannot really tolerate given that many of the devices involved will be battery operated and need to be as efficient as possible in their energy consumption. So experts are attempting to make 5G mobile networking not just faster but also less of a resources hog than 4G.
These needs to occur within the existing bands of the radio spectrum, which in the UK has led to some reshuffling of how certain frequencies, are allocated. By the end of the decade, Ofcom is planning to switch off certain signals used by digital TV broadcasts and turn them over to 4G and 5G network providers; the IoT is effectively going to become more important than television in the long term.
Further speed optimisations and efficiencies will need to be built into the underlying software that powers the devices connected to the IoT. As such software testing by bugfinders and other firms will be vital to facilitating the transition to 5G.
Talking about the theoretical potential of existing wireless networking standards, let alone those that have yet to be devised, is tricky since there are so many variables involved in supplying connectivity without physical cabling.
In spite of this there have already been mentions of 300Mbps download speeds for the first 5G-branded networking, as part of the LTE Advance System. And ultimately the 1Gbps barrier will need to be breached if all devices are to receive the access they deserve.