"Much Ado about Nothing" is a comedic play by William Shakespeare that combines elements of comedy and serious meditation. In Shakespeare’s day, “noting,” which sounded the same as “nothing” meant gossip, rumor and overhearing.
Before hospitality enters from stage right, let’s define 5G. This technology, which, depending on whom you ask, will become available between late 2017 to 2020 is a fifth-generation wireless network. According to one mobile carrier, tests have shown that it is 30 to 50 times faster than the current 4G network. With speeds like that, a movie that takes several minutes to download can be completed in less than seven seconds at 5G speeds. These incredibly fast speeds have spurred a new term: “Tactile Internet,” which was first used by Gerhard Fettweis, a professor of mobile telecom systems at the Technical University of Dresden in Germany. Basically, in the same way you touch your mobile device and it reacts to your touch, in the 5G future, you will directly engage with the cloud.
Although there are some very technical obstacles that will take some time, 5G is forecasted to appear in some commercial ventures as early as late 2017 and on a broader scale as late as 2020.
So now that we know what it is and that it is on its way, it’s time for hospitality to enter the theater. 5G will have ramifications that will alter or create many new stars in the industry, including:
Machinery: Using virtual reality headsets, operators at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this past February were able to operate machinery at the event, as well as hundreds of miles away. The problem being addressed was how to give the operator the same experience that they would have if they were actually sitting in the seat of the far-away machinery. Imagine if you will, your chef controlling multiple kitchens at multiple properties…all at the same time.
Driverless cars: Today’s driverless cars are capable of “experiencing” things that are close, i.e. the car in front of them or one beside them if they are about to change lanes. But with 5G, it is possible for highway sensors to actually communicate with the cloud and reroute the car miles before a traffic jam. Imagine being able to send the bride’s father home after the wedding (and a bottle of champagne) in the hotel’s driverless car and after the drop off, it returns to its parking place ready for the next guest.
Better guest services: There is current research on embedding sensors that allow a robot to “feel” texture. If this research is successful, using the incredibly fast 5G network as it is dreamed to be might allow your marketing department to do things such as allow a guest to “feel” the luxurious bedding products that you offer, the shopaholic to “feel” the texture of the shirt in your retail area or in the case of an emergency, a doctor to diagnose your guest’s potential broke arm from miles away.
Infrastructure/staff professionals: 5G needs standards and networks that do not currently exist. Until these are created, no one can be certain as to what future building design and systems will look like. But, with proliferation of the Internet of Things, the need for access to large bands of spectrum not currently available is going to be a requirement. In hospitality, the role of the IT professional is going to increase significantly in operations. These more complicated systems are going to require more training, prioritization and faster evolution than ever.
The stage is set and the play is about to begin; it’s up to our industry to decide if 5G is much ado about nothing or is something that we need to take seriously and try to help mold the industry.