The road to 5G: How your AI-enabled phone can prepare you for the future

Earlier this year, global research company Gartner predicted that an impressive 8.4 billion things would be connected by the end of 2017, a significant 31% increase from 2016. By 2020, Gartner forecasts, that number could almost triple to 21 billion. IoT is growing at a phenomenal rate, but in order for it to reach its full potential, it is vital that networks, devices, and software keep apace. And the magical glue that is needed to bind all these elements together is 5G.

One of the most hyped buzzwords in the tech industry over the past year has been the concept of 5G. On its most basic level, 5G can be defined as the next projected generation of wireless networks and cell technology, the successor to 4G. However, the simplicity ends there. The truth is that the parameters of 5G have yet to be defined – The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) will only be releasing its finalised standards on what constitutes 5G in 2020. Until then, we have only the ITU’s proposed roadmap that specifies certain requirements, such as latency of just one millisecond, and connection density of around one million connections per square kilometre.

Precise definitions are not the most important aspect of 5G, however. What is important is what advances like superfast connectivity and very low latency can mean for our society. IoT is already changing our perceptions of what is possible. For example, deliveries via drones are becoming a reality; a few months ago, the first drone food delivery service opened in Iceland, with the company claiming to get food to customers’ doors 20 minutes faster than via road. Even in South Africa, IoT is making its presence known, for example in the devices that can monitor our driving behaviour, which can result in reduced insurance premiums.

A device that will prove invaluable in utilising the full benefits of IoT is our cellphones. If we thought that we couldn’t do without our phones now, imagine how attached we’ll be in just a few years’ time, as our devices connect us to even more of the world. GMSA estimates that five billion out of the projected 8.4 billion IoT-connected gadgets mentioned previously are mobile devices. In South Africa, approximately 89% of our population own at least one cellphone, meaning there are currently more than 50 million mobile devices in our country. Thirty-seven percent of these phones are smartphones (Pew Research Centre, 2016).

One smartphone that is providing a sneak peek into an IoT-enhanced world is HUAWEI’s latest mobile device, the HUAWEI Mate 10 Pro, that was launched in South Africa last week. This phone is the first, and currently only, smartphone with built-in AI, thanks to its Kirin 970 chipset, the world's first AI processor for mobile devices. Compared to a quad-core Cortex-A73 CPU cluster, the Kirin 970's computing architecture delivers up to 25 times the performance with 50 times greater efficiency. Simply put, the Kirin 970 chipset can perform the same AI computing tasks much faster while using far less power, particularly as it doesn’t need to be connected to the cloud to process big data.

One of the most advanced benefits of the HUAWEI Mate 10 Pro is that it is an intelligent phone that continuously learns about its user’s phone behaviour in order to more accurately predict future usage patterns. This is the much enhanced world of IoT that the HUAWEI Mate 10 Pro introduces to its user. Furthermore, HUAWEI is extending the NPU processing capabilities of the phone to the entire value chain, opening its mobile AI computing platform for developers and partners, enabling them to leverage Kirin 970’s NPU to create new experiences and build the future of mobile AI computing applications. The 5G future is near, and HUAWEI’s new superphone is taking us a step closer to what it will offer.