A FutureIoT article published this month by Fuad Siddiqui, senior partner and vice president at Nokia Bell Labs, describes a new era of 5G he calls “5G+”. In this era, industries “assess and implement next-gen connectivity that acts in concert with a broad ecosystem of key technologies”, leading to the next big phase of industrial digitalization—“one that can help restore the parity between digital investment and their broader economic contributions.”
Companies seeking to realize the full potential of their 5G investments, Siddiqui continues, will have to move beyond “just having foundational networks. This is what it takes to be truly 5G+ ready, companies will not just have any 5G network infrastructure, but one which enables the confluence of enterprise ICT (information and communications technology) and industrial OT (operations technologies). This means the advancement of both digital and physical systems, which would then work in tandem with each other to the organization’s benefit.”
I agree and Siddiqui and his definition of 5G+, and would like to highlight two of the technologies he later describes as key 5G+ enablers: augmented intelligence and machine learning.
5G+ and Adaptive Decision Intelligence
At VoltDB, we call using the combination of machine learning and augmented intelligence to drive digital transformation “adaptive decision intelligence”.
Machine learning is looking back in the near past to determine what insights we can derive from the data. Adaptive decision intelligence is how an enterprise operationalizes these insights into some form of process automation that results in important benefits.
The key is to be able to apply these insights in real time to streams of event data as they arrive. To be able to do this in the lowest latency possible, which is important for Massive Machine Type Communications (mMTC), the data platform needs to bring streaming data ingestion, storage, rules application, and decision making together.
These mission-critical benefits could range from fraud prevention to quality-of-service assurance to the prevention of network intrusion—or they could simply be telemetry-based inferences to drive appropriate actions. Siddiqui refers to these benefits as “SPE” (safety, productivity, and efficiency) gains.
Typically enterprises have been very successful in continuous learning by streaming new data for retraining of machine learning models. However, they often fall short in achieving the agility required to be able to incorporate those learnings to improve their decision-making rules. This is where VoltDB’s approach of adaptive decision intelligence comes in. We enable enterprises to apply these new insights and rules to their data streams with ever-evolving intelligence, which, in turn, allows for the SPE gains to improve as time progresses and conditions change.
Siddiqui rightly points out in the article that one of the key requirements for this evolution to take place is the confluence of ICT and OT. We at VoltDB call this “active digital twins”, where data is collected from both the physical assets and the network, not just to learn but to also drive the adaptive decision intelligence that enables an accelerated transition to a digital enterprise.
5G+ and Becoming a Data-Driven Enterprise
A key requirement for driving adaptive intelligence is to be a data-driven enterprise. Without data, there is nothing to learn and nothing to make decisions on. We strongly believe that to realize the 5G+ vision Siddiqui lays out, an enterprise needs a data platform that brings multiple streams of information and derived intelligence together to satisfy a fundamental set of agility tenets:
- Cloud-native deployment for easy operations
- Edge footprint compatibility for optimal resource utilization – to do more with less infrastructure
- Highly performant while maintaining low latency to ensure that the decisions and subsequent actions are not stale or outdated
- Scalable on-demand to meet the dynamics of a sensor-enabled enterprise
- And, most importantly, accurate and correct in the handling of streams of data and the decisions derived from the data to ensure that the decisions and actions are aligned with the current reality of the enterprise processes
5G may already be transitioning into 5G+, but no matter what you call it, it’s all about technology stack agility and adaptability. This agility comes from quick intelligent decisions, and those decisions are enabled by accurate, low-latency data processing at the point of data ingestion. That’s the future of 5G, and the future of successful telco networks.