Pervasive Networks Enabling the Tactile Internet
Today’s Internet provides a depth of information and social sophistication that rivals the real world—but the next dimension is on its way. Blurring the lines between real and virtual objects, the Tactile Internet will enable remote, real-time physical interaction with real and virtual objects. Its implications and applications are limitless with industry, academia and policy makers pinning hope on it to empower significant socio-economic transformation and help build a highly connected society that achieves improvements in productivity, sustainability, and well-being.
Use Cases for the Tactile Internet
Possible applications for the Tactile Internet range from non-mission critical applications, such as gaming and edutainment, where it will enhance experiences—to mission-critical applications where it will drive significant change, for example:
- Industry X.0 – Companies will utilize the Tactile Internet to connect the people, objects and systems in real-time to enable “smart factories.” Here cyber-physical systems will communicate and cooperate with each other and with humans in real time over IoT platforms and power decentralized decisions
- Transportation - With the ability to detect small distances between vehicles earlier than human drivers, it has significant potential to reduce road accidents and traffic jams for autonomous cars
- Healthcare - By enabling advanced tele-diagnostic tools, it can make medical expertise available anywhere and anytime, regardless of physician location
Bringing the Tactile Internet to Reality
Unlike the Internet we know today, the Tactile Internet will provide a medium for remote physical interaction in real time. This will require the exchange of closed-loop information between virtual and/or real objects with a communication infrastructure that combines low latency, determinism, high availability, resilience, and reliability. To meet these needs companies must seek and manage diverse network sources, while also building and incorporating critical technologies, including:
- 5G technology will underpin the Tactile Internet, enabling throughput and connections, while still meeting requirements for security, trust, identity and privacy
- Virtual and augmented reality, overlaid with real-time information, will create a virtual world that enables remote live support and improves decision-making and productivity, while sensory and haptic controls address local areas with reaction times on the order of a millisecond
- Simulation technologies will enable rapid testing and innovation by leveraging real-time data that virtually mirrors the physical world
- Horizontal and Vertical System Integration is essential to break down silos and share information across departments, functions, partners, and value chain
- Industrial IoT, enabled by tools such as embedded computing sensors, will allow for communication between devices, decentralized decision making and real-time responses
- Cyber Security needs to be heightened given increased connectivity
- Scalable cloud services are vital for data sharing across functions sites and boundaries
How CSPs Should Prepare
OTT players, which operate with agile business models and without constraining regulation, will be formidable competitors in this sphere. However, because the Tactile Internet’s IP service layer will be profoundly more dependent on communication features at the beginning, CSPs have an initial window of opportunity to define their strategic approach. And, there are different paths they may choose to follow, from commodity-based plays that offer connectivity to the ecosystem—to becoming providers of new services with embedded connectivity services themselves.
Regardless of which route they take, CSPs will need to first focus on no-regret moves to build capabilities, drive decision-making, navigate complex regulation, and compete and cooperate with ecosystem players. This includes developing a plan that spans the Network lifecycle and takes the following into account:
- Plan: Tactile Services will require smart models for predicting usage patterns and geographical application areas. Multi-access edge computing will play an integral part in enabling use cases, while challenging operators to minimize costs and increase ROI. Regulatory approvals must also be considered.
- Build: A range of innovative digital network deployment solutions will be required for a successful and profitable rollout. Field force workers will need to become experts in multiple technologies, and, without enough skilled workers, CSPs may need to adopt a digital worker approach.
- Operate: CSPs must rotate their operating model, processes and people to support these new technologies, optimize their benefits, and adopt a proactive customer orientation. Silos need to be eliminated to allow for complete information sharing.
What does it take to make these use cases successful?
Given the Tactile Internet’s enormous potential and complex infrastructure, CSPs should begin the work for rollout of the necessary 5G network and fiber infrastructure. However, it is more than simply a technology play. Because the Tactile Internet requires a high degree of reliability, CSPs will need to shift from a connectivity-based business model and towards an elastic ecosystem of partnerships that can support compulsory and varied service agreements. Then, with the proper investment, 5G service providers and network owners will be able to lead in such use cases and leverage them for business growth.
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