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Innovation in 5G takes us on a new journey


August 13, 2020


 

In the latest blog in a series about Cisco’s innovation programme, I’m explaining how our approach to innovation could lead to a revolution in advertising, enabled by 5G.

 

This year, the hottest tech topic has arguably been 5G. With lots of service providers promising us that “5G is here” and new devices coming out every week, it’s easy to get caught up in all the excitement.

But 5G is more than a simple speed upgrade. Being able to download your favourite Netflix series is wonderful, but that misses a lot of the point of 5G. It is enabling entirely new ways to design, fund and deliver networks, and what those networks can do.

Let me explain.

With 5G RuralFirst, our ambition was to lead to transformational changes in the way people in rural communities live and work.

We wanted to address the problem of poor connectivity in rural areas and explore what could be made possible with 5G. One example was connecting an offshore salmon farm to allow farmers to monitor them remotely from the safety of the land. This leads to interesting conversations about the potential of data analytics in a completely new scenario.

5G innovation requires that we think laterally, across new sectors and domains to see where this technology can bring about real change. Harnessing the power of our imagination to discover new applications for technology, or creating completely new commercial opportunities. In other words, doing what wasn’t possible – or even considered – before.

We learned so much with 5G RuralFirst, contributing to changes in government policy around spectrum sharing and seeing 5G deployed in new use-cases.

But our 5G innovation journey continues. Which is why I’m excited to talk about our new project: 5G RailNext.

 

Laying new tracks

5G RailNext (unsurprisingly!) is about applying the potential of 5G on our rail network, a new market segment for us to apply fresh thinking about 5G.

As any commuter – or rail operator, for that matter – will tell you, connectivity challenges are a lost opportunity. Just think of all that time that is potentially wasted. Surely we could make the experience more engaging for passengers?

With 5G RailNext, we’re exploring the possibilities of augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR), enabled by 5G, and how the technologies could be harnessed for advertising and marketing.

The potential for using experiences such as augmented reality and mixed reality is huge, with lots of different formats to experiment with. Whether it’s using augmented reality to try-on a potential new outfit, through to using mixed reality for banner ads that ‘interact’ with physical objects in a carriage (picture an image of a ball rolling down the corridor and under one of the seats).

Cathay Pacific is an example of a company which has experimented with 360° video, enabling customers to get a feel of traveling on their planes. The campaign increased unaided awareness by an impressive 29% and people’s favourability towards the company by 25%.

But the challenge on the trains is ensuring a consistent low latency connection, which is where 5G could help.

Latency – the time it takes to exchange data between source and device – is really important to marketers because it causes delays in how advertisements are served. Even with 4G, you’re talking about 60 milliseconds, and we all know that we don’t necessarily get a reliable 4G connection on a train.

With 5G RailNext, we want to bring low latency to subway trains. We’ll be testing a technology called multi-edge computing (MEC) virtualised packet cores, which could cut latency down to very low levels for a better end user experience.

As with 5G RuralFirst, we’re returning to Scotland for 5G RailNext – only this time we’ll be based in Glasgow. The Glasgow Metro is the third oldest in the world, presenting its own unique challenges in terms of infrastructure.

I feel it’s really important to test new technologies in existing situations, because that’s the reality of implementing future technologies. It’s not like we can replace all the trains or tracks to make the connectivity work!

This project is part of an intergovernmental collaboration between the UK and South Korea. A sister project is being run on the Seoul Metro. There, similar use cases are being implemented in a new rail infrastructure, providing both teams with a fantastic opportunity to share our learnings.

In the UK, 5G RailNext is itself involving a core consortium of five partners, including University of Strathclyde and Strathclyde Passenger Transport, and is part funded by DCMS. It gives us the opportunity to develop a new use-case for 5G and further explore augmented and mixed reality.

Make sure to follow #CiscoInnovates on Twitter to stay up to date with the latest innovation from Cisco.

 

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