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4 ways 5G can optimize your work and personal life

5G may sound like a buzzword, but its applications could make your life easier and your workflow smoother. Here's how.
Written by Sabrina Ortiz, Editor
5G tower overlooking city
Kinwun/Getty Images

Despite 5G being a cutting-edge technology with the ability to revolutionize the way people interact with their devices, there is still a lack of widespread understanding about its capabilities and potential benefits for users. 

5G itself refers to the latest broadband cellular network generation that supports stronger and faster internet connectivity. It builds on the advanced capabilities of 4G which already supported texting, data streaming, web browsing, and more by incorporating millimeter wave technology. 

"So what 5G does is, you have 4G in there, but also have this millimeter wave stuff," says Alexander Wyglinski, associate dean of graduate studies at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

"Millimeter wave is the technology for Uber or high-speed data transmission." 

For many people, the knowledge of what 5G can do is limited to the symbol that sometimes pops up at the top right-hand corner of smartphones to deliver improved connectivity. 

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In addition to improved mobile connectivity, 5G can enhance many areas of our lives, from immediate improvements in Internet of Things (IoT) to more groundbreaking solutions such as healthcare, autonomous driving, and drone technology.

"5G is blurring the lines of all digital experiences, allowing consumers to consume live media and entertainment, track and manage their health and wellness, and monitor the security of their home and family from anywhere at any time," says Dan Littmann, principal at Deloitte Consulting LLP.

ZDNET talked to experts and gathered four applications of 5G that can elevate your workflow and everyday processes to increase your productivity and make your life easier. 

1. Better video connectivity

The pandemic made remote working a common practice, and hybrid and remote work models are here to stay. As a result, video conferencing has become a cornerstone in most people's everyday workflow. 

For a smooth, lag-free video call a strong, dependable connection is critical, and this type of connection is often difficult to achieve because of the limitations of Wi-Fi. That's where 5G can step in. 

"With 5G's improved bandwidth and low latency, remote workers can participate in high-definition video conferences without interruptions or lag, fostering better communication and collaboration," says Peter Liu, a VP analyst at Gartner's Technology and Service Provider Research Group. 

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5G also enables workers to forgo having their devices tethered to a wired ethernet connection, which people often opt for due to the increased reliability and faster internet connection a wired ethernet cable provides. 

The increased video connectivity doesn't just apply to video conferencing, but also to video streaming. Since 5G has high-quality video streaming capabilities, it can increase the speed and quality at which you stream your favorite content including Netflix, YouTube, and more. 

2. Higher speeds

As previously mentioned, 5G is notorious for its ability to provide high-speed internet connectivity to cellular devices. These speed capabilities don't have to remain limited to your cellular devices; instead, they can elevate all your devices, including those that can more directly help your workflow. 

"The idea is the seamless, real-time, connectivity we expect of all cellular technology, but it's expanded to all technology, that's 5G," Wyglinski says.

Even though having a fast connection on your phone is ideal for web browsing, video streaming, and social media scrolling, a fast connection is even more necessary for your workspace, and 5G's low latency can optimize nearly every digital aspect of your workflow. 

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For example, many work tasks require the utilization of CPU-intensive programs and robust files that are connection-demanding, and in those instances, 5G can help with their performance. 

"5G offers significantly faster data speeds and lower latency compared to previous generations," says Liu. "This means remote workers can experience seamless video conferencing, quick file transfers, and smooth access to cloud-based applications, improving overall productivity."

The speed of 5G is so impressive that NFL football stadiums have adopted the technology to ensure that coaches, players, in-person audiences, and in-stadium vendors have access to a reliable connection at all times, even with tens of thousands of people and devices competing for connection simultaneously at events. 

3. Connectivity to more IoT devices 

Internet of Things (IoT) simply refers to devices that are connected to the Internet. IoT devices can range from something as small as a wearable ring, to as big as a smart fridge, and everything in between. 

In a smart home, all of these separate devices connect to the internet and each other, sharing data and making capabilities like activating a smart routine that turns on the lights, shuts off blinds, and activates an alarm simultaneously from an app a possibility. 

With 5G, IoT devices can connect to the internet and each other at higher speeds, enabling faster and more reliable data sharing that can take the capabilities and inter-functionality of these devices to new levels. 

The Deloitte Connectivity and Mobile Trends report found that half of 5G smartphone users agree that "the new connectivity standard enhances many capabilities and experiences," with one-quarter of respondents watching more streaming videos than they did before switching to 5G, while one in five using their 5G phones more as mobile hotspots and payments. 

"Consumers can also use 5G to leverage multiple IoT devices (virtual assistants, smart home devices, wearable technology, etc.) to streamline processes, increase task efficiency, and enhance overall quality of life through improved connectivity," says Littmann. 

Because of the advanced connectivity bandwidth of 5G, it can also enable the connection of more devices to your IoT network. On a smart home level, the connectivity of more devices can expand the scope of your IoT ecosystem, creating more seamless integrations throughout your home and automating more tasks. 

"5G's ability to support a massive number of devices simultaneously can enable remote workers to integrate smart devices into their workspace, improving automation, remote monitoring, and efficiency," says Liu. 

Beyond the smart home, the advanced connection density of 5G can support smart factories and even smart cities. 5G can fit as many as one million 5G devices in a kilometer, compared to the 0.1 million devices that 4G can support, according to a report from market and consumer data company Statista. 

In a smart city, different sensors and IoT devices are connected, sharing and analyzing data in real-time to enhance various aspects of urban life and infrastructure, "including traffic flow, energy consumption, waste management, air quality, and more," according to Liu.

"Smart Cities leverage 5G's high data speeds, low latency, and capacity to connect and manage a vast network of IoT devices and sensors," he adds.

4. Secure connection 

Whether you are dealing with sensitive company data or handling your own finances, keeping your information secure is essential. However, when doing either of these tasks in a location other than your home, you set yourself up for a multitude of security breaches. 

Using public Wi-Fi can put your personal information at risk, as others on the same network may be able to access your personal information. However, with the growing availability of 5G, workers will have access to secure and reliable internet connections even when on the go.

When connecting to 5G, the user's identifying information remains encrypted, adding a layer of protection to the user's personal data when accessing a fast connection. 

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"Further, as 5G becomes more ubiquitous, remote workers will have to rely less on unsecured public Wi-Fi services such as in hotels, airports, and shops and will instead be able to utilize a more secure high-speed connection via a trusted 5G service provider," says Littman. 

Another alternative to using Wi-Fi in public locations is using your mobile hotspot. 

However, people often avoid this solution because depending on your phone plan, your hotspot connection can be weaker than that of Wi-Fi, be slower, cause extra charges, and just inconvenient in general, especially while working. 

A workaround for this issue is using a 5G-supported mobile hotspot which provides both security and the connectivity you need. 

"5G-powered mobile hotspots offer reliable high-speed internet access, allowing remote workers to create a dedicated workspace wherever they are, without relying on potentially unreliable Wi-Fi connections," says Liu. 

These hotspots are more expensive than their 4G counterpart; however, their fast speeds and security make them a worthwhile investment for people constantly on the go. 

Many major carriers including Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile carry 5G plans for compatible cellular devices. 5G hotspots devices are also another reliable option. 

What's next for 5G

Now that you know all of the positive ways 5G can impact your workflow, you may be wondering what your next steps in implementing the technology into your workflow should be. 

First, think about how 5G will specifically benefit you and weigh out the pros and cons to see if it's a technology you would want to invest in.

"Consider how 5G can benefit your specific needs and lifestyle. Whether it's faster work-related tasks, improved entertainment experiences, or enhanced remote communication, tailor your exploration accordingly," advises Liu. 

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Once you have decided whether this is something you'd like to pursue, you will need to check if it is even a possibility for your device and your area.  

Since 5G is still an emerging technology, not all areas, devices or carriers support the technology, and as a result, you will have to check to see if you are even eligible first. If you are, it is a matter of contacting your carrier to see how you could get 5G connectivity amongst your devices. 

Regardless of what you choose to do now regarding 5G, rest assured that the technology will continue to evolve, become more ubiquitous and transform virtually every industry including the automotive, commerce, and even health industry. 

"5G, by the end of this decade should connect everything," says Wyglinski. 

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