Have you ever heard the term Gigabit Society? If not, you should know one thing about it: we will live in it soon. We have come very close to the visions that appeared in the sci-fi films of the 1950s, whether it is self-driving cars, artificial intelligence assistants, drone delivery, virtual reality operations or real-time information sharing. How quickly we will get there, however, depends on how quickly we can build the necessary infrastructure.
And what exactly is the Gigabit Society? Technically, it is any house, shop, vehicle, any mobile device, etc. that can use data rates of up to 1 Gbps or 125 MBps and that is connected with very low latency, i.e. fast response. In practice, this means that data can move between points without noticeable delays and at distances of up to a thousand kilometres in mere milliseconds. The interconnection of devices and the transfer of information is no longer limited by the capacity of the network, which is defined and controlled by each specific request we have. This will revolutionize industry and change the lives of people all around the world. How? Here are seven facts you need to know about the Gigabit Society.
1. It will need high-speed optical connection
The idea of a Gigabit Society will become a common reality when high-speed fibre optic internet connection becomes natural part of cities and towns. This will replace the old copper or other wiring that now provides fixed internet connection. The advent of fast mobile networks of the fifth generation - 5G will be the key driver. In addition, there is, in simple terms, a cocktail of political, financial, technical and regulatory factors that need to be resolved. Despite these challenges, however, there is no doubt that we will soon live in a Gigabit Society.
2. It will save lives
At present, the average time to send CT scan data (let’s say about 2 GB of data) between hospitals is 14 minutes. In a Gigabit Society, the time drops to 40 seconds. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. The speed at which digital information can travel will significantly affect healthcare. For example, remote meetings of patients and doctors using high-definition video will reduce waiting times in hospitals as well as the need for travelling. Similarly, blood pressure, heart rate or even hydration of the body could be remotely monitored on long-term basis, thanks to smart portable devices connected to the network. The more information a physician has, the better s/he can diagnose. Also, if a patient experiences sudden sickness, the device will call for help in time. Or, let's go a little further into the future and imagine that a robot, controlled by a top surgeon from a hospital, is operating immediately on site of a serious car accident.
3. It will change the way of education
We can say, with a little exaggeration, that the next generation of children will no longer experience boredom in the classroom. Virtual field trips to distant inaccessible places, such as the deep ocean, can become the norm.
Gigabit infrastructure will help at all levels of education, not just schools. It can be used, for example, to train pilots, paramedics and technicians on how to proceed in high-risk scenarios. It is also possible to create virtual classes where thousands of participants will be able to participate in easily accessible online courses. In addition, artificial intelligence algorithms can adapt and assist a particular student according to his or her performance and learning pattern.
4. It will help us to better safety
Faster data transfers and smarter technology will allow for better surveillance in public spaces. Artificial intelligence cameras can alert you to a potentially dangerous situation before it actually occurs and help with the solution. The same technology will complicate the work of criminals not only in public but also in private places.
5. It will help with environmental protection The way we traditionally use energies, such as electricity, has not been very smart so far. Presently, energy is passively supplied to our homes and offices, which results in wastage. This is because of the lack of data to improve things. Thanks to the Gigabit infrastructure working together with smart monitoring solutions, energy networks will be able to track energy usage at different times of the day, week, month or year. Thus, intelligent systems will keep energy networks balanced from many sources in real time and help significantly reduce energy consumption as well as CO2 emissions.
6. It will create new jobs
New technology typically creates new jobs and, in some cases, whole industries. It is not just about creating the infrastructure as such for Gigabit Society, which in itself requires a significant workforce; that will be nothing compared to how many new jobs will be needed due to the development of new applications, business models and the emergence of data-based companies. In addition, omnipresent gigabit speeds will reduce the need to centralize work in urban areas, due to which people (including industries) will not have to commute to work as often.
7. It will revolutionize transport
The 1 Gbps data rate will be a major innovation for transport, as it will make it possible to fully implement the concept of smart cities. When self-driving cars become the norm, vehicles will be able to send and receive signals to and from traffic lights, other cars, nearby drones and emergency vehicles. This may result in cities without congestions. Smart cities will also adjust bus and rail transport in real time: it will depend on current passenger demand, which will save energy and reduce emissions.
Karlovy Vary is one of the towns where the things described above are almost becoming a reality. In July 2019, Vodafone signed a memorandum on Gigabit Partnership with the town in order to assist implementing the vision Karlovy Vary 2040. The basic prerequisite of a Gigabit Partnership is for high-speed networks to become natural part of the town. Because of this, Vodafone is currently working on infrastructure that will be able to offer data rates of up to 1 Gbps, while limited commercial 5G network is already in place.
Tourism is important to Karlovy Vary, and the town is currently considering enriching the online tourist guide with augmented reality. At the same time, the changes in the “smart city” will gradually affect also transport, health and education.
And it's not just Karlovy Vary: three of the five winning cities of the 5G for 5 Cities competition announced by the Ministry of Industry and Trade and Regional Development last October will implement their 5G projects with Vodafone, Ústí nad Labem and Jeseník joining the Karlovy Vary municipal council in the project.
Why did the town of Jeseník join the 5G for 5 Cities competition? The Deputy Mayor Tomáš Vlazlo summarised the reason on behalf of the preparatory team: “We think that in the future, physical distances will become increasingly less significant, and the fact that a place is on the outskirts today that will eventually become an advantage. We already want to prepare Jeseník and the whole region for a future in which data transmission and communication will play a crucial role. It goes without saying that we are striving to develop industry with high added value, robotics, digital education, and community life in the 21st century in the region, which supports the town’s efforts to reduce the outflow of young people. A huge human potential is already available here, which we want to support and to show to the world.”
Ústí nad Labem
Ústí nad Labem is another town where the fifth-generation networks will receive state aid. “5G networks will help us implement our development projects: first, Portabo data platforms which will collect, unify and provide data from the whole Ústí region in a unified and open format, and second, the urban zone project to test autonomous, i.e. unmanned driving in urban traffic. This is a great start, as well as wide space for new opportunities,” says Martin Mata, Director of the Innovation Centre of the Ústí nad Labem Region, describing the town’s plans.