Where are the robots? The wait for mission-critical IoT and massive IoT

If we are to trust the tradeshow floors, we would think that the
future is already here: displays of remote operating tables, robots
making coffee, and displays of smart cows and agriculture appear
ready for mainstream today. In reality, however, we aren’t yet able
to deliver these inventions because our current network
infrastructure cannot support the data and latency requirements.
There are intermediate steps that must be taken in the connectivity
infrastructure before these fun inventions—and the
trillion-dollar 5G market of our dreams—can come to

First steps: massive IoT at scale

Despite the hype of 5G, in the IoT domains we are just beginning
to see 4G ramp. 4G will still be 95% of the cellular IoT
deployments for the next five years and during that same timeframe
will be competing strongly against LoRaWAN. The promise of the
high-performance 5G future will be challenged by the reality of the
use cases today. While autonomous cars need the advanced network,
tracking livestock and deploying smart meters are adequately
serviced now. The first major step towards 5G massive IoT will come
in 2020 with the release 16 upgrades that include ultra-reliable
low latency communications (URLLC). While network slicing and URLLC
will not be mainstream until 2025, after the standards are
finalized it will be up to the supply chain of chip and module
makers and OEMs to accelerate adoption from previous generations.
While we currently think the ramp will be in the 2022-23 timeframe,
there is hope that the industry shift will be sooner.

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The killer 5G use case

Looking to the future, the cellular IoT marketplace of 2024 will
be split between energy and utilities, asset management, smart
cities/home, and fleet management, with agriculture, retail, and
medical emerging. There is no doubt that the market will be large;
but what will drive the buildout in the near term? The research
shows that the majority of the volume is in low-power,
low-bandwidth applications, which is in stark contrast to the media
attention surrounding high-performance applications like autonomous
driving and service robots and drones. The one application that
could promise to drive performance and latency is fixed mobile
broadband. Google and others have spent a tremendous amount of
money on fiber to the home. 5G to the home could enable
high-performance, easy-to-install access, and combined with low
latency communication, enables a step function in applications like
online gaming and streaming on demand. The network for IoT needs a
strong driver to build out the infrastructure, and this is the
potential killer use case.

Worth the wait

While “smart cows” may revolutionize the dairy industry, it’s
not the kind of innovation that will change the world. However,
smart cows will come online with other technologies that will
fundamentally change our planet, and it will all rely on a true and
fully implemented 5G network. The future that we are imagining
today is exciting and, hopefully, worth the wait.

Matt Short is the senior research director for
IoT within the Transformative Technology team at IHS Markit
Posted 2 July 2019

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