Could 5G mean the difference between life and death?

The rollout of 5G has been met with an element of scepticism. There are questions around whether the technology will deliver on expectations, concerns around security for both businesses and consumers and, although not proven, worries about potential health risks. Report by Rohit Gupta, vice president and head of Manufacturing, Logistics, Energy & Utilities, Europe at Cognizant.

Whatever reservations people may have, the fifth generation of cellular technology is upon us, bringing with it an abundance of opportunity for businesses to capitalise on increased data speed and potential new revenue-generating models as well as benefits for society at large.

5G is also set to transform a sector that we all rely on as a matter of life or death: our emergency services. Here are some of 5G’s benefits and opportunities for the emergency services industry over the coming years.

Inside the control room

5G reduces latency to one millisecond, speeding up emergency response times. The quicker the data is shared, the faster a response can be triggered, which could massively increase the speed at which critical health information might be shared.

A trial by Air Ambulance Kent Surrey Sussex and South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust in the UK has already used a video-capable mobile phone to stream videos from the emergency scene in real time. The study found that video streaming can reduce the stress of the person reporting the accident, as those at the scene were able to pass information on to the ambulance service more accurately.

The introduction of 5G means we will have access to faster speed, shorter delays in data transmission, and increased connectivity through greater capacity in the towers. Using 5G, video streaming can stream uninterrupted with less latency, bringing operators closer to the front line and ultimately leading to more lives being saved.

Such on-site capabilities also make it possible for emergency service operators to assess the severity of a situation and determine the best course of action. In the future, we could see this technology used to give remote guidance on how to treat people at the scene of an accident.

5G will enable the large-scale adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT), bringing together critical data and smart traffic systems. Equipping emergency vehicles with 5G SIM-fitted telematics systems will mean the data about their locations, road conditions, and traffic situations can be transmitted to the control room.

The operators can then triangulate this information with the data they are getting from smart roads, smart traffic lights, and weather conditions to determine the best possible route to reach the patient in need or to the appropriate hospital.

Taking to the skies

Emergency services in the UK are already experimenting with emerging technologies. It was recently reported that new proposals could see the National Health Service (NHS) use drones to transport blood and chemotherapy kits between hospitals and GP surgeries.

Not only do these developments improve the efficiency of services, they also protect employees. Drone aerial imagery can help firefighters obtain information about the exact location of an accident in a building, help pinpoint an individual’s location, or assist with searches at sea.

In order to ensure the right course of action is taken and lives are saved, high quality footage is vital. Verizon states that 5G’s millisecond latency and data speeds are up to 100 times faster than 4G, allowing drones to transmit high-definition, real time footage. This imagery can then be shared with operators helping staff work towards their goal of saving lives without compromising their safety.

A smart approach to on-the-road care

5G should improve digital connectivity including communication between emergency vehicles and their surroundings, helping track emergency vehicles and support smart traffic systems to give ambulances and other vehicles priority on the road.

Rohit Gupta

With vehicle telematics systems transmitting data to the control centre, healthcare professionals in the centre can monitor the patient’s condition through the video, providing care suggestions as well as helping first responders to make on-the-spot decisions.

Location details and estimated time of arrival will help hospitals prepare for receiving the patient and preparing the necessary teams. IoT-enabled medical devices can transmit data and test results to the control centre, hospital, and healthcare professionals, thereby reducing patient handover timings at the care centre.

5G is a new technology, and using it is not simply a technology challenge. 5G offers the potential to not just do business as usual and quicker, but also to do it differently. As adoption of 5G increases and more and more devices become IoT-enabled, the possibilities in a near-zero latency world will be endless. Designing new processes that take advantage of new possibilities for the good of society is the work ahead of us all.

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