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BUSINESSTODAY 13 January 2022

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OPINION 13.1.2022 Alexiei Dingli Prof Alexiei Dingli is a Professor of AI at the University of Malta and has been conducting research and working in the field of AI for more than two decades, assisting different companies to implement AI solutions. He forms part of the Malta.AI task-force, set up by the Maltese government, aimed at making Malta one of the top AI countries in the world I 'm sure you've heard about 5G, espe- cially since the telecom providers are flaunting it all over the place; however, very few people understand what it is or its importance. In simple terms, 5G refers to the 5th generation mobile network, which is so powerful that it can connect virtually everyone and everything, in- cluding machines, objects, and devices. Many might ask why there is the need to connect so many devices. e reason is simple; the internet is becoming as important as electricity, if not more. In a few years, you'll find it everywhere, and these devices will use it to download and upload information. Cars will become connected vehicles, capable of planning the daily commute according to your calendar while also taking corrective actions in real-time if they encounter traffic or even an acci- dent along the route. e refrigerator will take stock of what you're consuming, prepare a shopping list and send it (with your permission) to your local store. It will also analyse what you're eating and propose healthi- er alternatives when possible. Of course, these are just two exam- ples, and there will be many others. But the most significant noticeable im- provement is in the speed. Just consid- er that with wireless internet at home, you might probably download an entire high definition movie in around 13 min- utes. Using 5G, you can download the same movie on your mobile device in a few seconds. In reality, however, this feature proves to be somewhat elusive. Most of the devices connected to the internet send and receive small amounts of data. Apart from this, many of them operate within the home, thus utilising a fast wifi connection. So the million-dollar question everyone is asking is why there is a need for 5G? We have to take a peep at the not so distant future to answer this question. I hinted before that the internet will be- come the new electricity found every- where. To achieve that, we need tech- nology, so it logically follows that we will have to use different electronic gadgets all over the place. Remote country trails might have cameras monitoring the area, protecting wildlife while also look- ing for hikers in difficulty. Public play- grounds will have surveillance systems that alert the authorities as soon as van- dalism is detected, raise alarms when a child hurts, close the gates at certain times and dim the lights if there's no one around. And the fantastic thing is that all of this happens automatically, thanks to Artificial Intelligence (AI). So we're seeing an increasing need for smaller devices located outside the home, far from a power source and which need massive processing power. It sounds like an impossible feat, but the solution is 5G. Because these out- door devices will act like dumb sensors, getting vast streams of information and sending them (via 5G) to powerful com- puters located remotely. ey will then perform advanced processing on the data and take appropriate actions ac- cordingly. ese innovations will eventually lead us to the killer app for 5G, the weara- ble device. Such devices will have all the functionalities of a smartphone and much more. ey will also lead to the death of the mobile phone as we know it. We can wear them on our bodies in the form of smart glasses or even smart contact lenses. Of course, the limita- tion is that there will be very little space where to store a battery and other pro- cessing components. So initially, the mobile phone (located nearby) will act as an edge computer for these devices. Its function will become obsolete with time, and our smart glasses will do their processing directly on the cloud via 5G technologies. e amount of data sent and received is vast. Let's look from a health perspec- tive. ey can harvest the person's phys- ical metrics via sensors such as a heart rate monitor, blood oxygen saturation monitor, sweat sensor and many more. is data will be uploaded to the cloud via 5G in real-time, analysed, and rec- ommendations sent back to the person. It's as if a doctor is constantly monitor- ing you. So if you fall, are involved in an accident or suffer a heart attack, the de- vice automatically alerts the emergency services. e number of lives that it will save is enormous. But the most significant need for such a setup is to process the contextual in- formation. e device constant uploads sounds, video feed, geolocation infor- mation, and other information to the cloud. It is then processed, and the user is alerted with information messages. As a simple example, imagine someone calling you in a noisy environment. e device can triangulate the location of the sound and inform you about it, thus providing you with super hearing capa- bilities. Maybe a more serious example would be a vehicle that lost control and is approaching from behind. e system might detect this event (by listening to the sound of the crashing car) and alert you before it hits you. It's like having eyes at the back of your head! e video feed coupled with the geolo- cation information will provide just-in- time information. It can simply help you remember the names, designations and casual information of people you meet. While having a dialogue with someone, it serves as an intelligent teleprompt- er highlighting additional information that might be important for the conver- sation. While walking down the street and browsing shops, the system would accentuate special offers found inside. It would also check with the shop for available options and inform you if in- terested. Looking at a menu in a restau- rant will highlight the favourite dishes and warn the customer about ingredi- ents that might cause an allergic reac- tion. So there are so many options, and the way we live will change forever. We will become an actual information society where the information is no longer with- in reach of our fingertips but served to us on a digital plate. e wearables we require for this will probably enter pro- duction later this year, but we shouldn't wait for them to start building the mas- sive software-based infrastructure we'll need. Now is the right time to invest in the future! The 5G killer app

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