5G and AI Technology: What They Mean for the Future

Robot AI with 5G antenna
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Summary: 5G and AI Technology

Both 5G and AI have been heralded as the next revolutionary technologies. When used together, they can unlock unprecedented efficiency and productivity in the global economy if used correctly. However, there are also concerns regarding each technology.

5G is the next upgrade to the telecommunications network. It is much faster than 4G and has very low latency, as well. As a result, 5G will be used to connect millions of ‘Internet of Technology’ devices and power smart cities and homes.

Artificial Intelligence refers to a computer or machine’s ability to replicate human thinking. AI is classified into either “general AI,” which is an advanced computer with a human-like mind and “narrow AI,” which enables a machine to perform certain tasks very well (like self-driving cars).

The potential of both technologies is boosted further when they are used together. 5G allows for fast transfers of large volumes of data, which improves the possibility of using AI on regular devices. AI similarly helps improve network and traffic management, which are crucial to 5G’s success.

To learn more about 5G and AI technology, keep reading below.

There has been a lot of hype around 5G and AI these past couple of years. 5G and AI have the potential to digitize and automate tasks in the fields of medicine, education, computer science, robotics, banking, governance, warfare, space, virtual reality, and much more. The potential applications of 5G and AI are virtually endless. Moreover, 5G and AI are complementary: they help each other perform better and reach new potentials.

Yet with all the new possibilities and changes of these new technologies, a new set of risks emerge that we have to take into account. This article looks at what these new technologies are and what they could mean for humanity, how they complement each other, and what the potential risks are.


What is 5G?

What is 5G iconDespite its popularity, people are still unclear about what 5G is. 5G is simply the next step in mobile telecommunications and network quality.

Our needs have far outgrown the capabilities of 4G, the same way that we outgrew its predecessors. Therefore, we’ve developed new technology to address those needs. Simply put, 5G means we can transfer even more data at even faster speeds compared to 4G.

So, exactly what is 5G? “5G” stands for the fifth generation of wireless cellular networks. This next step in telecommunications will allow you to achieve high-speed internet up to 100 times as fast as 4G with very low latency (or minimal delay).

What is the difference between 5G and 4G?

Between 5G and 4G, 5G is faster, more secure, more reliable, more responsive, and more efficient. Similarly, 4G is an improvement over 3G; 3G is an improvement over 2G; and so on.

To summarize the history of 5G technology and its predecessors:

  • 1G wirelessly connected mobile phones to radio towers, allowing you to have a conversation while you walk.
  • 2G turned analog into digital communication, allowing you to send text messages.
  • 3G made the jump to having the internet on your mobile devices.
  • 4G improved the speed and volume of internet data transfers to such an extent that you could stream whole movies on your phone.

One downside to 5G is that it is more difficult to install and deploy. This is mostly why 5G hasn’t completely taken over 4G yet. Network providers still have to place transmitters across the globe, which often presents physical challenges in terms of location and transportation.

That said, there are still plenty of advantages to using 5G, which we explain below.

5G will make the ‘Internet of Things’ a reality

In the near future, 5G will bring together millions of internet-connected devices, appliances, and sensors without draining their batteries. It will also help in reducing congestion on 4G networks, thereby improving network quality overall.

Such a globalized network of devices, appliances, and sensors is called the Internet of Things (or IoT). It will allow all these devices to transfer data and communicate without any human input.

This Internet of Things will enable businesses to automate all sorts of processes, reduce production costs, explore new revenue streams and increase transparency. For example, with the right programming, the IoT could create self-sustaining farming units. Soil sensors would alert drones what amount of water or nutrients the crops require for a maximum yield.

It is, therefore, no surprise that huge economic gains are expected from the introduction of 5G mobile networks. The global management consulting firm McKinsey expects the Internet of Things to have an economic impact of up to $11.1 trillion by 2025.

5G will help create smart cities

One of the major benefits of a 5G network is that it will allow cities and homes to function in a truly “smart” manner. This means that different aspects of running a city, such as traffic management and drainage, can be automated through interconnected devices and servers.

This level of advancement is difficult, if not impossible, to achieve with 4G since 4G was not developed to support that amount of network traffic. Meanwhile, 5G can do this and more. For instance, it also helps generate massive amounts of big data that can help decision-makers further improve city management. According to research, “big data” refers to the process of using mathematical methods to huge amounts of data with the goal of finding correlations and inferring possibilities.

These are some of the benefits of 5G. However, as with any new technology, there are some concerns as to what the negative impacts of 5G could be.

The concerns over 5G

The concerns over 5G iconWhile 5G networks promise to revolutionize global communications and connectivity, there are some crucial concerns regarding the technology.

The first set of concerns arises because 5G uses a higher frequency of radio waves than 3G or 4G. This higher frequency allows more devices to have access to the internet at the same time. This is what will enable the Internet of Things.

However, some people worry that this higher frequency in combination with far more devices constantly communicating with each other will hurt our health and that of other animals. Fortunately, existing research by organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO) has found no adverse effects due to radiation caused by mobile use. This does not mean there are no negative effects caused by 5G. But, so far, no evidence has been found.

The second set of concerns relates to the vulnerability of the Internet of Things. Linking such a large number of devices on a single network creates a single point of failure, making each device vulnerable to hacks and bugs. Managing network performance across a large number of devices is another significant challenge.

There are also concerns that 5G equipment can be used to create vulnerabilities in a nation’s cyber defense architecture. As a result, several nations are preventing equipment suppliers with close relations to foreign governments, like Huawei, from supplying 5G equipment.


What is AI?

AI, or Artificial Intelligence, is intelligence demonstrated by machines, specifically the ability to interpret data, potentially learn from that data, and use that data to adapt and achieve specific goals.

The idea behind AI is to describe human intelligence in a manner that can be interpreted and acted upon by a machine. This is why AI is often used in connection with robots: machines that are basically copies of humans with the same capabilities.

There are two very different conceptions of artificial intelligence.

Infographic showing two different conceptions of Artificial Intelligence

Artificial General Intelligence

Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) is the type of AI you recognize from famous movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey or The Terminator. These are machines or systems that think, plan, and respond just like humans, while also possessing so-called “superintelligence.”

AGI would be able to process information at lightning speed, make incredibly complex calculations in nanoseconds, and never forget anything. Right now, however, no such technology exists. In fact, scientists do not know if AGI is even realistically possible.

Narrow Artificial Intelligence

This is the type of AI that actually exists and is being further developed as you are reading this. Narrow AI are systems that do distinct tasks incredibly well, such as self-driving cars, voice recognition, or software that can make medical diagnoses based on advanced imaging.

Within Narrow AI, there’s a distinction between different types of learning. These are covered in the section below.

The different types of Narrow AI learning

Under Narrow AI, there are different types of learning. In the table below you’ll find a brief and simplistic description of these kinds of learning.

Type of “Learning”Description
Machine LearningMachine learning involves using examples and experiences in data form to refine how computers make predictions or perform tasks
Supervised LearningSupervised learning is showing AI labeled example data, like photographs with descriptions, to “teach” a computer how to interpret and categorize them
Unsupervised LearningUnsupervised learning means feeding computer data without any annotated or labeled guidance
Reinforcement LearningReinforcement learning is software that experiments with different kinds of actions it can perform to figure out how to maximize a virtual reward, not unlike scoring points in a video game
Deep LearningDeep learning is potentially the most groundbreaking type of learning. It allows machines to ‘learn’ by sorting through enormous data sets to recognize patterns, find correlations, and make inferences based on probabilities.

This technique has allowed AI to do amazing things such as: beat the world’s best chess player, correctly diagnose melanomas, engage in complicated conversations with humans, drive cars, beat video games, paint portraits, and even make scientific discoveries.

For the record, the actual mechanics of AI learning are far more complex than described here. However, a working understanding of the different kinds of AI will suffice for now. The next section discusses the possible advantages and disadvantages of using AI.

The possibilities and limitations of AI

Various studies have been released in the past few years claiming AI will be a true economic game-changer. PwC Global, a professional services network, predicts that AI could contribute up to $15.7 trillion to the global economy in 2030. Put simply, there is an absurd amount of money to be made from 5G and AI.

Some of the sectors that stand to gain the most from AI are healthcare, automotive industries, financial services, retail, technology, communications and entertainment, manufacturing, energy, and transport and logistics.

However, it is also important to see the limitations of AI as it currently exists. Some of the major limitations are:

  • AI neural networks up until now only have a few million “neurons,” which is still very few compared to the 100 billion neurons inside every human brain and its trillions of synapses.
  • AI neural networks are “modeled” on human brains, yet human brains are so incredibly complex we are still far away from completely understanding them.
  • Humans still control the input of data and are challenged to come up with complex networks and equations for AI to work.
  • Deep-learning algorithms, unlike humans, are unable to consider ideas or concepts that they have never encountered before.

In short, there is a lot of potential for these technologies, but we’re still far from reaching that potential. Of course, there are concerns that AI reaching its full potential could be disastrous for mankind. Noted scholars and entrepreneurs, such as Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking have warned of the potential catastrophic possibilities of developing AGI. Others have pointed to the technology’s potential to accentuate existing bias.


How will 5G and AI Work Together?

How will 5G and AI work together iconWe’ve explained what 5G and AI are and their potential advantages and limitations. It’s now time to assess how both these technologies can work together to further increase their impact.

Enabling edge computing using 5G networks

“Edge computing” refers to the next paradigm of AI in which the processing of data happens on data servers close to the user’s device. This means AI’s potential can be fully realized even on smaller devices without much computing power.

Edge computing requires fast transfers of large volumes of data between the device and server. 5G networks enable such transfers due to their high bandwidth and low latency and, hence, accelerate the development of edge computing. In other words, 5G has a positive impact on the delivery of AI-based solutions to users in an efficient and personalized manner that improves customer experience.

5G also boosts the development of AI as it enables the generation of massive volumes of big data. All devices, sensors, and machines on the 5G network will create data points that the AI algorithm can study and learn from using techniques such as machine learning and deep learning.

Boosting wireless networks using AI

The increased adoption of 5G is likely to present challenges for network performance management. The existing spectrum of radio waves may be insufficient to meet the increased demand for network coverage due to the spread of 5G.

Avoiding network congestion, then, requires smart network planning. AI can play a significant role in optimizing the network performance of wireless systems. For example, AI can be used to tailor the frequencies that a device broadcasts to. As a result, devices would be able to choose less congested frequencies to avoid congesting the network.

Machine learning can also make wireless systems more efficient by reducing their power consumption. These improvements will result in a faster and more reliable experience for customers.


The Future of Technology

The combined powers of 5G and AI are not at our doorstep yet. It will take at least a few more years before we can see the wide-ranging effects of 5G technology deployed on a mass scale. Meanwhile, AI is most likely still decades away from reaching the level of intelligence that many people speculate over.

One thing is certain, however: we will be hearing even more about 5G and AI in the next couple of years.

5G and AI Technology: Frequently Asked Questions

Do you still have unanswered questions about 5G and AI? Well, then check out the section below.

5G is the next generation of telecommunication and brings significant improvements in terms of speed and latency. As a result, 5G will power new innovations like the Internet of Things and Smart Cities.

5G can help improve the performance of AI on regular devices, such as mobile phones, by enabling edge computing. “Edge computing” refers to the practice of carrying out computations on servers close to a device. The fast speeds and low latency of 5G networks will help boost edge computing.

Despite the immense potential of 5G, there are some notable concerns about the technology. Some of the major concerns are:

  1. The high-frequency radio waves used by 5G networks can cause health problems. This claim has been debunked by the World Health Organization.
  2. Connecting millions of devices on a 5G network makes all of them vulnerable to cyberattacks.
  3. 5G equipment from certain suppliers can be used to compromise a nation’s cybersecurity architecture.

Learn more about these issues in our article on 5G and AI.

Yes, current versions of AI can be hacked, much like other computer programs. Machine learning algorithms often contain vulnerabilities that can be exploited by hackers. Moreover, the learning data fed to an algorithm can be manipulated to arrive at dangerous and harmful results or actions.

Cybersecurity analyst
David is a cybersecurity analyst and one of the founders of VPNoverview.com. Since 2014 he has been gaining international experience working with governments, NGOs, and the private sector as a cybersecurity and VPN expert and advisor.