Currently, there are two technologies that present themselves as disruptive for the future: 5G and blockchain, and their combination can lead to a transformational change in the everyday life of people through interaction with the so-called Internet of Things.
When we talk about 5G network we mean an altogether new generation network that is able to transmit data with a speed which is higher than 1 gigabit per second and with much lower latency than the current LTE network.
This type of technology is very necessary for the widespread application within the homes of the IoT, “Internet of Things”, i.e. the ability for the various smart devices, ranging from all appliances and televisions to every day and even aesthetic objects, in order to connect independently to the network to exchange data, updates, and indications.
For example, let’s imagine a house where the vacuum cleaner and the floor washer start up on their own when the house is dirty; or where the washing machine not only washes the clothes by itself but warns you that you have to buy the detergent or even does it by itself; or even the fridge that shops autonomously on the basis of the menu that you have set up for your evening dinner.
The application of the IoT requires a very low-latency, high-speed network, which can be provided by the 5G network, but this may not be enough. Any network is hackable, with greater or lesser difficulty, and even the most modern and fastest network can be attacked.
This is a threat of great significance when it comes to involving a myriad of objects that regulate our private and public lives. If we want a refrigerator that is able to autonomously buy the groceries, we also need a secure payment method that is not susceptible to external attacks.
How to use 5G and Blockchain together
Blockchain technology could operate at this particular level, which, with its characteristic of unchangeability and intrinsic security, allows the transmission of data and payment activities to be carried out in a safe and non-infringing manner.
The problem at this point, however, is the scalability of this blockchain: if applied extensively to the IoT, the DLT must be able to tolerate an extremely high number of transactions per second, and we know that this is the weak point of this type of technology.
For example, Do you know that Bitcoin can support 7 TPS, Litecoin 56, Ethereum 25, BCH 61 and Tron 2000? The choice, however, may not fall directly on a blockchain but on a second-layer blockchain, overlapping the main one, as is the case with Lightning Network on BTC or LTC, able to provide the scalability that the main one cannot provide.
The public blockchain could act as a contact element between the widespread IoT in cities, homes, and means of transport and the 5G network, thus becoming the protector of our privacy and payments.
This type of technology is still in its infancy, but the 5G will not have a profound impact if not accompanied by the DLT. Of course, there must be a safety assessment of 5G networks at the level of possible health damage, as highlighted by the recent blockade of the experiment in Brussels, which occurred due to doubts about the possible danger of long-term electromagnetic waves, much more dangerous in a network that needs to be spread with great depth. But once these problems are solved, we could see a real revolution in the everyday life of people.
The implication of 5G technology is pretty much obvious, at least on a basic level. If 4G long-term evolution was great, 5G is greater: The newer network technology can transmit data at upwards of a whopping rate of 10Gb per second compared to 4G’s 100Mb per second. It will ensure faster internet, lower latency and greater interconnection (capacity for more connecting more devices at once).
All these advantages put IoT devices at the fore of beneficiaries of this new technology – especially smaller, low-powered devices. Higher speed means faster transmission of data over networks. Also, 5G’s superior interconnection means many more IoT devices would be able to benefit from it.
IoT technology allows tangible objects of everyday use to be able to connect to the internet to transmit data via algorithms and serve owners better. The world is already seeing a proliferation of smart devices like TVs, furniture items, vacuum cleaners and so on.
Already, there are smart homes, which are completely operated by in-built algorithms. Estimations by the Fraunhofer Institute place potential smart home savings at 40% as far as heating expenses are concerned, a goal that applies to the industry as much as homeowners.
Ideas of smart cities are not far from being realized, either. Smart cities dream beyond the cutting of emissions and energy costs, estimated by McKinsey to improve commute times by a possible 15-20% and emergency service response times by 20-35% with the help of intelligent roads. As mentioned earlier, 5G would provide an avenue for these smart homes, smart cities and many more smart devices to realize their true potential.
Once there is level ground for smart devices, especially low-powered ones to thrive, then IoT would receive a huge boost. Since it would become more convenient to operate these devices, there would be many more of them and even many more people to readily adopt it. The world is reaching a level where it would be difficult to live as a human being without access to the internet. In fact, the UN has since 2016 declared access to the internet as a human right.
However, while the marriage of 5G and IoT already promises to be a blissful one, there are still legitimate concerns especially in the areas of security and privacy. That is where blockchain comes in.
Many people today are very least aware of virtual currencies today like Bitcoin, Ethereum, Swisscoin, Litecoin and so on. But only a few have a grasp of the technology behind it: Blockchain. Blockchain is a peer-to-peer, decentralized database platform for storing blocks of transaction data linked together in chains – hence the name.
The decentralized nature of blockchain means it is resistant to most security issues. It’s high-level encryption that provides greater protection from hacking than the traditional client-server system. That is what makes online transactions and payments using virtual currencies are so secure.
IoT and 5G together have a great potential in combination but which can only be realized by infusing the blockchain technology. While 5G provides a connectivity cover for the IoT devices and transactions, blockchain handles security and ensures the protection of user and transaction data. And really, this trinity would be very strong as each part strengthens the other.
The internet of skills would also receive a huge boost with the introduction of blockchain. Earlier this year, a Chinese doctor performed the world’s first 5G remote surgery on the brain of a patient who was several miles away using robots. More of this is expected to happen as we see much-improved healthcare delivery globally. Security in this area is, for obvious reasons, vital – and blockchain implemented in healthcare would make remote processes that much more secure.
In addition, the anticipated 5G-motivated massive increase in adoption of smart devices means that the blockchain would have at hand, far more data than before. This combined data is a great push towards globalization in technology.
However, blockchain having to handle more data would most likely cause scalability issues. Do you know that the technology stores transaction data in blocks linked by chains? Building each block takes about 10 minutes already – what happens when there is far more data to deal with and process? The result is a great increase in a block size that leads to higher response time.
As a result of the above, while 5G provides the speed for IoT devices, integration with blockchain might actually result in slower processing of data and transactions. This is the challenge of infusing 5G and IoT with blockchain and a specific solution does not seem to be obvious yet. Perhaps, the speed of 5G or a better cellular technology will balance up this slower processing.
In conclusion, 5G, IoT and blockchain all need and impact each other to thrive in this particular globalized world. There is no stopping of 5G and IoT now, so we must hope that engineers and developers will find a way to solve or go around the anticipated blockchain scalability issues so that these three technologies can reach their unified potential.