5G will spark a Cambrian explosion of connected devices that will make our lives easier, better and more efficient in countless ways. Smart homes will become smarter. Healthcare devices will help us better manage chronic disease. Autonomous vehicles will not only drive themselves, but communicate with other vehicles on the road to reduce traffic and avoid accidents.
But for all the hype, 5G is currently only available in certain cities, and the number of devices compatible with the technology is still limited. Rolling out the network could take over a decade.
Even so, all the calls for businesses to prepare for the future of 5G aren’t necessarily premature. They just miss an important point: 5G is one part of a larger inflection point in technology we’re experiencing that enables significant digital transformation programs.
As we build more connections and make more improvements, these technologies become critical to our lives, which means a focus on resiliency must be part of your overall strategy. It’s important to be prepared should any of these technologies fail. Here’s why and how to get started.
The Digital Transformation Ecosystem
5G wouldn’t matter without the low cost of compute. That low cost of compute enables us to create, manage and learn from significantly large data sets. Those data sets allow us to have robots, machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI). That in turn creates more opportunities for connected, smart devices and 5G.
These technologies are coming together to create new business opportunities. For example, IBM’s new Weather Signals tool allows businesses to submit supply chain and sales data and receive a customized model showing how the business can improve revenue by working around weather patterns. For agriculture, IBM will look to Internet of Things (IoT) sensors combined with other data to optimize growing cycles for various crops.
Medical device companies can manufacture connected pace makers that send data back to your doctor, giving you an early indication of a critical condition and allowing you to act quickly. Utility providers can use drone technology to perform maintenance on hard-to-reach powerlines, allowing providers to make timely investments.
As these technologies roll out, don’t overlook how the legacy services and products you provide your customers will be impacted. Fail to do so and you could be disrupted by a startup with a low cost of capital and a great idea.
The Danger of Dependence
All these new technologies, including 5G, come with one big caveat: The more we come to depend on them, the more dangerous any outage becomes. Especially when technologies introduce new conveniences or insights, we have little tolerance when they falter.
When Google’s cloud service went down for several hours in June, it rendered Nest door locks, thermostats and cameras unusable. And while not being able to change the thermostat might seem like a minor inconvenience, the consequences quickly ramp up in healthcare, where pacemakers or blood sugar monitors for diabetics have become more connected. One popular brand of pacemaker still had vulnerabilities a year and a half after they were first reported that would allow hackers to run malware on the device.
The same goes for transportation — autonomous cars will generate 4 terabytes of data per hour and any disruption in communication could cause accidents and injuries.
The more we rely on connected technology, the more downtime causes major disruptions, upsets customers and damages reputation, impacts revenue and can put lives in danger.
How to Prepare for 5G
Before you seize the opportunities of 5G – or any technology – here’s how you must plan for resiliency and architect for availability.
1. Shift your focus. It starts with a complete change in mindset. In the past, the most critical application for a business was its ERP system. With a front end on the web, any downtime for that ERP could potentially cost the company hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenue in just minutes.
Now as these same companies increasingly add connected technology to their customer-facing products, those will likely become the new mission-critical applications. What is considered acceptable downtime for these customer-facing critical applications? While a focus on resilience internally is important, organizations must also ensure the availability of the applications, services and products provided to customers.
2. Find the right skills. Good developer talent is hard to come by these days, let alone upskilling to add machine learning, artificial intelligence and shore up your cybersecurity. But these roles are all imperative to ensuring resilience is a part of your digital transformation efforts.
If you’re struggling to close the skills gap or can’t fit the salaries into your budget, consider finding a partner that will offer the same skills as part of a managed service.
3. Have a plan for your data. With more connected devices comes more data. Be prepared to store, manage, back up and secure that data.
4. Assess legacy applications. Legacy applications might not be affected by 5G, but should you be looking to upgrade to take advantage of the new technology when it arrives? That depends on your business.
5G and Digital Transformation
Digital transformation is being driven by computing cheap enough to store vast data lakes, ML and AI that learn from and apply that data, and sensors that send back more data for more informed insights. 5G will accelerate all of that.
But it also creates risks when your company and/or your customers come to rely on those connected technologies. As you prepare for 5G and navigate digital transformation, architecting for availability and resiliency are critical components that can’t be overlooked.