As the world rolls out the fifth-generation technology standard for cellular networks, or 5G, its appeal in India is limited to being a future-ready feature on a fancy phone that signals the owner’s tech savvy. After all, widespread 5G services are still months, if not years, away in India. However, 5G is a big opportunity for India’s thriving startup ecosystem, to devise and design new use cases, such as the retail industry solution jointly unveiled recently by Verizon Business, Deloitte and SAP. It uses 5G’s capacity for extensive machine-to-machine communication, in conjunction with Edge computing and advanced data analytics to vastly improve the retail store experience for the consumer and to optimise inventory management, both replenishing shelves from stocks and ordering fresh stocks.
Three things make 5G different from 4G: superior speed, superior data throughput and near-zero latency, that is, almost instantaneous response to a signal transmitted over the network. In applications such as remote surgery, gaming or autonomous cars, the zero latency bit is vital. But all use cases need not make use of the latency advantage. The ability to handle large amounts of data, and fast, might be enough, as in the retail solution above. Edge computing refers to the ability to process a lot of data locally, instead of leaving that also to be processed in the cloud. Locally processed data can then be transmitted to the cloud for serious number-crunching involving artificial intelligence, and the results can, for example, be presented to the consumer using augmented reality. The possibilities are truly vast.
The challenge for startups is to marry extensive domain knowledge with intimate knowledge of technological possibilities, to devise new business solutions, that is, to combine experience with youth, a shade different from the normal startup model. The point is to dream up new use cases and roll out pilot projects now, so as to be leaders rather than followers in the new game in town.
This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Economic Times.
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