The Internet of Things (IoT) is already part of our lives and is beginning to increase its relevance in professional sectors such as medicine, while new networks such as 5G are beginning to spread around the world. The application of wearables and all kinds of sensors to measure vital signs is already a reality in our country. Under the name Internet of Medical Things (IoMt), this type of device is beginning to be increasingly introduced in healthcare centres. At the same time, telemedicine and remote assistance are beginning to take on a new dimension. This is mainly due to the incorporation of these devices, along with online services and video calls.
Within this field, user satisfaction and improved quality of life are the main priorities for companies dedicated to offering these products and services. Good quality communications, the availability of reliable devices and a better integration of all these in smart ecosystems are basic pillars in the future of the sector. In this sense, the arrival of 5G in Spain represents a paradigm shift in the development of new technological environments in the short and medium term.
Through this network and the forthcoming devices compatible with this technology, we will be able to respond to the main challenges in the healthcare sector. These include improving the treatment of chronic diseases, overcoming geographical barriers to bring healthcare closer and reducing waiting times for consultations and increasing their quality.
What are the real benefits of 5G?
5G is not a mere evolution of 3G and 4G networks. Instead, it is a transformative ecosystem capable of integrating different communication technologies such as 4G, Wi-Fi, millimetre wave and others. This will enable a combination of cloud infrastructures, ecosystems, smart services and the distribution of data computing models generated by billions of devices.
Asha Keddy, vice president of the platform engineering group and general manager of next generation and standards at Intel, defines the technology as follows: "5G is much more than a G. It is much more transformative. With 5G, we will move from a user-centric world to a world of mass communications. In this way, the network will go from enabling millions to billions of devices. An era that will connect these devices in an intelligent way.
In other words, 5G is an evolution from a point-to-point system to one that senses data from billions of devices. It works to move those communication packets seamlessly to the right device, using the right processing platform. Four factors differentiate 5G: connected devices, fast and intelligent networks, back-end services and extremely low latency. Through these advances, it is possible to achieve a qualitative increase in connections, in particular:
- Speed: 5G can reach between 10 and 30 Gbps, while 4G is capped at 300 Mbps.
- Latency: 5G is around 1ms, while 4G offers levels above 50ms.
- Number of connected devices: 5G operates on microwave frequencies that allow a much larger number of users to work simultaneously. One million users per square kilometre, which is almost 100 times more than 4G.
- Energy efficiency: 5G uses less energy per bit than 4G. As a result, device power consumption is significantly reduced and battery life is increased accordingly.
5G in healthcare
All these qualities are needed in the health and care sector. Thanks to low latency and artificial intelligence, monitoring can be carried out quickly and reliably with constant contact between patient, doctor and relatives. It facilitates alerts through alarms, changes in treatment, urgent dispatch of medication using drones, activation of ambulances, etc. All this in real time and always taking into account the patient's location, using geolocation tools.
Today, there are already various services in the healthcare sector with embedded 5G, such as ambulances. In these 5G-enabled vehicles, it is possible for doctors in hospitals to monitor patients' vital signs in real time. In this way, doctors can prepare the necessary treatments in advance in collaboration with the ambulance staff.
In the field of telecare, low latency and high quality connections allow doctors to make high-definition calls, while viewing their vital signs in real time and without any delay. It is possible to offer a quality service to patients from their homes and with accurate data on their current condition. With these facilities, centres can offer their face-to-face services more efficiently to seriously ill patients and reduce waiting lists.
Within the more experimental fields, 5G is also helping in the development of virtual reality (VR) devices for the practice of operations simulations. It is also possible to find research in the field of augmented reality (AR) for the development of glasses capable of real-time monitoring of operations.
A paradigm shift
In general terms, 5G will mean a quantum leap in data collection and analysis. Healthcare institutions will thus have a greater context for diagnosing patients. A large number of these variables require highly reliable and available data with latency intervals down to a few milliseconds. All of this will enable this monitoring and provide consistent and reliable user experiences to improve care. At Intelligent Data, we are already working on devices that support 5G platforms and environments. We continue to innovate with our goal of improving people's quality of life.