What is the 5th wave of computing and how might it lead to innovation?

March 30, 2020
Matthew Hellon
Research Executive

Innovation Insights is a monthly series on research world looking at all thing’s technological innovation. The series is based on several recent surveys with Arm (semi-conductor company valued at £23.4 billion) and will cover topics such as:

  • Security – will security concerns stifle technological and product innovation or simply lead to more secure products?
  • Insight driven innovation – what processes can be used to turn insight into innovation and how can insights into the way youths interact with technology be used to prototype software that assists and empowers them to tackle cyberbullying?

The third article in the Innovation Insights series examines how:

  1. Consumers perceive the impact of 5G, Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI)
  2. The combination of these technologies can influence new product and service innovation

The 5th wave of computing

Combining AI, IoT and 5G will lead to a computing revolution – what Arm calls the 5th wave of computing – where these technologies mature simultaneously. Each technology is powerful in its own application:

  • AI allows for machine learning
  • IoT allows for complex monitoring of home activity
  • 5G allows for a faster phone connection

However, when these technologies combine, they’ll lead to increased data-driven computing. This will allow new patterns to be found in data and ultimately “change every aspect of our lives” (Simon Segars, Arm CEO).

For developers, the 5th wave of computing is the next step in complex technologies that enable faster and smarter working. But how do consumers view these technologies? And do they see them having an immediate impact on their lives?

Widespread adoption of the 5th wave of computing

AI, IoT and 5G will soon become more widespread and noticeable in everyday life. 63% of people[i] don’t yet feel that AI has noticeably impacted their lives. However, 54% believe it will within the next 10 years. It’s likely that AI is already impacting people’s lives through facial recognition or recommendations, but they are unaware that this technology is powered by AI.

The IoT is expected to have a noticeable impact even sooner. 61% of people[ii] think it’ll either slightly or significantly impact their lives in 2020.

In 2019, the 5G network was released in countries such as China and the UK. The rollout was met with excitement – 66% of people[iii] either liked or loved it. Whilst it’s unlikely that everyone was personally benefiting from 5G’s rollout (5G smartphone ownership is 7%) – people are aware of the future benefits it’ll have and the innovation opportunities it allows.

Innovation opportunities

The 5th wave of computing can help realise AI’s potential. Machine learning can be enhanced by an increased amount of data coming from the IoT and can be made mobile thanks to a fast internet connection available everywhere because of 5G. This combination can lead to new and interesting innovations.

The combination of AI and IoT data is powerful

AI-powered IoT devices can process data ‘at the edge’. This means each IoT device can analyse data it receives rather than sending it to a datacenter. This approach is more secure (no data is transferred via the internet) and more efficient. From IoT sensors that notify homeowners about damp in the home to fully autonomous vehicles, using AI with data from the IoT is a powerful combination for innovation.

5G gives these devices speed and reliability

Eventually, the data processed on AI-powered IoT devices will need to be transmitted to humans. Whilst local analysis can notify us of a trend/insight on that one device, macro analysis on regional or national trends cannot be done on one device. That’s where the speed and reliability of 5G can aid in transmitting that data.

Consider a smart inhaler that measures drug inhalation locally on the device and can improve delivery locally based on data from that individual. Now imagine the data from hundreds of these devices being used to examine spikes in usage that can be mapped to air pollution or pollen levels. The on-device AI is powerful, but so is the ability to track macro trends across multiple devices. Ultimately, as Arm’s CEO Simon Segars writes:

“The Fifth Wave of Computing will revolutionize how we use data. The IoT will gather it more abundantly, AI will process it more intelligently and 5G will distribute it faster and with higher capacity. When the Fifth Wave of Computing reaches full maturity, it will drive learning and AI inference everywhere.”

Next month, we’ll discuss the elephant in the room of more technology: security. How concerned are consumers about the security of their devices and do they think companies are doing enough to protect them? Moreover, we’ll look at whether security concerns could stifle innovation.

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