transform public services, 5G potential
© Pranab

Whilst 5G is discussed in the same breath as national security and Theresa May’s decision-making, Iain Shearman discusses using 5G networks to support smart cities

On our increasingly urban planet, technology is transforming the lives of millions of people as smart cities start to become a reality. Over the next 30 years, it is predicted that almost 70% of the world’s population will be living in these cities; this rapidly growing number of new city dwellers will need homes, jobs, healthcare, infrastructure and services.

5G is being heralded as the game changer that will make smart cities a reality, enabling greater automation and seamless connectivity and unlocking the potential of emerging technologies to transform public services and the economy.

What can 5G do for a city?

5G promises to be up to 30 times faster than current network infrastructure and will allow for seemingly instantaneous, two-way data transfer. This is set to release the potential of the Internet of Things in a smart city environment, connecting a growing array of smart devices to improve public services, including electric vehicle charging stations and public transport to reduce congestion in order to be able to cope with growing demand.

Households in some European cities, for example, now deposit waste in municipal smart bins that monitor waste levels and optimise collection routes, making waste collection services more efficient for local authorities to deliver and better meeting consumer demand.

More efficient vehicle movements will be an important factor in reducing congestion while enabling people to move around cities of the future freely. With ever increasing numbers of workers commuting in and out of cities each day, the transport infrastructure is under growing strain to keep people moving quickly and safely.

Connected autonomous vehicles (CAVs) with the ability to make decisions faster than a human being are already being introduced on our roads with the aim of reducing human error.

Moreover, a fleet of connected vehicles could improve reliability for public service operators using our roads for everything from emergency services to buses to waste collection trucks; vehicles of the future will have the ability to react proactively instead of reactively, transmitting data to forecast repairs and pre-empting unscheduled downtime.

How is 5G going to work with IoT?

It is the speed of 5G that will have the biggest impact on the way we interact with technology to access services.

The low latency and high reliability of the new 5G network means that many aspects of healthcare, for example, could be transformed into remote consultation experiences with patients and health professionals using technology to communicate seamlessly, saving hours of healthcare professionals’ time, resources and funding.

The emergence of wearable technology in the new connected IoT setting opens up the possibilities of patients using sensors which transmit data to help with research into medical conditions, as well as inform healthcare practitioners about the status of individual patients at any time.

The connected IoT represents a major shift towards using data more effectively to manage assets, resources and services with greater efficiency across all public services. Its potential will be welcomed by public sector organisations who are constantly under pressure to do more with less.

What about spending cuts in the UK?

At a time when spending on public services has never been under greater scrutiny, 5G will allow organisations such as the police force, NHS and government to utilise new technology to improve efficiency, productivity and to save money in the long term, helping to automate processes otherwise taking up large proportions of budget and time.

There is the potential to make accessing health records simpler for professionals and patients as well as more secure, for example, therefore reducing the risk of security breaches.

The NHS has been the target for hackers on numerous occasions in recent years, partly due to the huge amount of sensitive data stored and outdated legacy security systems. The rollout of 5G will enable technologies to be updated quickly and security measures to be improved, which will help keep important, confidential information safe.

But despite the promise of 5G being almost within our grasp, getting there certainly won’t be plain sailing – and security is one of the initial red flags currently waving in the UK. Hardware security concerns have stalled the rollout of the country’s 5G network, which will rely on a robust, future-proof network infrastructure. Limited budgets and the need for skilled IT teams to manage the transition to new technologies may also slow the progress of change for organisations.

The challenge for the public sector will be transitioning from traditional legacy systems, cultures and ways of working to enable them to maximise the potential of 5G and make the most of the smart, new, connected world ahead.


Iain Shearman


Managing Director



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here