As the world experiences the spread of COVID-19, people across virtually all industries have transitioned to working from home—making digital communications, mobile apps, and video conferences the new normal for getting the job done. And it’s working! In fact, there’s already much debate as to whether the current Coronavirus crisis will bring about lasting changes in the way people work. In this new world, we are pushing the boundaries of connected intelligence more than ever before, and it’s all about to get a lot more interesting thanks to the arrival of 5G networks.

A recent McKinsey & Company Discussion Paper looks at the impact 5G will bring to certain industries beyond network connectivity. According to the paper, looking only at what 5G can do today is short-sighted. Rather, executives should look at what the next generation global network will enable in the future, including integrated cloud applications and more intelligence at the edge. In what McKinsey describes as the “new architecture of connectivity,” companies can use 5G to better leverage the cloud and lower cost “thin” devices combined with power, storage, and sensors that are more affordable than ever before.

The changes on the horizon will be profound, bringing up to 2 billion new users online by 2030 and unleashing hundreds of new connected intelligence use cases across a range of industries, according to the firm. The McKinsey paper looks at 5G’s future impact on four industries in particular: mobility, healthcare, manufacturing, and retail. Below we provide a summary of just some of the use cases where 5G is being applied today:

  • Mobility & Travel: Connected cars represent perhaps one of the biggest convergences of new technologies to date. Enhanced safety. Navigation. Maintenance alerts. Voice control for music and phone calls. Even parking services. We’ve also moved from  “E-hailing” and other digitally-powered shared transportation options to using geo-location, mobile apps, and connected payment systems to provide personalized service.
  • Healthcare: While companies in the healthcare industry stand to benefit big from 5G-enabled innovations, there’s still a lot of work to be done to realize their full potential. According to McKinsey, “Powerful tools such as advanced analytics, AI-powered diagnostics and population health analytics, connected medical devices, and wearables all depend on enhanced connectivity.” If the industry successfully brings all these technologies together, digitizing healthcare could deliver efficiency gains worth $1.5 trillion to $3 trillion per year by 2030.
  • Manufacturing: Enabling the implementation of what McKinsey calls “Industry 4.0” technologies, 5G is making smart, cost-efficient, and automated factories a reality. This transformation is being driven by “an explosion in the volume of available data, developments in analytics and machine learning, new forms of human-machine interaction (such as touch interfaces and augmented-reality systems), and the ability to transmit digital instructions to the physical world,” according to the firm. New use cases include automated guided vehicles (AGVs), 3-D bin picking, visual quality checks, and system-wide, real-time process control.
  • Retail: According to the McKinsey paper, a lower cost-of-entry for key new technologies in retail is helping companies keep up with increasingly digital customers. Today, digital engagement and connected intelligence play a major role in retail purchasing decisions, even for in-store transactions. To help handle this change, retailers can leverage connected analytics and automation technologies to drive improvements in forecasting, inventory management, back-office operations, and marketing. 

If you’d like to dig deeper into the issues to be addressed and how to overcome the hurdles to digital connectivity, check out the full McKinsey Discussion Paper.