Smart homes are already a reality — and they improve our lives and lifestyles in hundreds of little ways that weren’t possible before. You might have a smart thermostat, garage door opener, surge protector, window shade or lightbulb in your home already, and it probably provides a small measure of comfort and convenience in your daily routine.
What all of these connected devices have in common is a dependence on internet connectivity. For many devices, Wi-Fi provides that connectivity. But there are other wireless and hardware standards too, and some are more proprietary than others.
With so many variables, not to mention the task of actually getting everything set up and connected, it’s easy to understand why many in the tech world are already excited about the ways 5G might streamline the already “smart” smart home — and potentially make our neighborhoods feel more connected, too.
What’s so special about 5G?
Roughly speaking, each “G” in 3G, 4G, 5G, and so on, should bring a tangible increase in speed. For 5G, that means peak download speeds of 20 gigabits per second. The 4G standard provided peak speeds of one gigabit per second. You should download a feature-length film in less than a second on 5G, compared with 4G’s 10 minutes.
In the tech world, the “5G standard” is seen as a mini-singularity around which many other technologies will finally come into their own. 5G will make high-quality, high-velocity streaming possible for augmented reality and virtual reality applications. It will also provide a kind of “internet mesh” where autonomous cars can exchange information with themselves, their homes and with public infrastructure.
5G will ultimately provide this connectivity within individual homes, apartment buildings and even city blocks. AT&T will be the first major carrier to bring a 5G network to market — by the end of 2018, it promises — and most of the others will follow suit in 2019 and beyond. The rumor mill says Apple might have a 5G iPhone ready by 2020, but AT&T is already tapping the brakes on public expectations, saying, it’s going to be a while before 5G is a “mainstream” technology.
The carrier is choosing to brand this network “5G Evolution,” as a nod to the fact it has improved its 4G network on the way toward full 5G capacity, without actually saying the result will not quite be full 5G speeds. It’s been as confusing to consumers as you might imagine.
In a nutshell, that’s why there’s a holdup in getting this technology into our smart homes. Nevertheless, there’s as much potential in this vertical as any other when it comes to harnessing the potential of 5G for convenience, speed and universal connectivity. Here are some of the ways the advancement of this new standard will influence smart homes and, as a result, how we live and commute.
How will 5G impact the smart home?
The advantages of rolling out internet connectivity to smart home devices and appliances, and across towns and communities, via a true 5G network, are undeniable. Here’s a quick look at a few of them:
- Consolidation of multiple confusing wireless standards: Ever heard of the Zigbee standard? Many homeowners hadn’t, either, until they discovered it was key to making their smart home devices work. Other devices use standard Wi-Fi or even Bluetooth. 5G, and especially 5G delivered via satellite, provides omnipresent, high-speed connectivity with one wireless protocol. Everything connects, nice and simple.
- Connect more low-power, always-on devices directly to the internet: The existing maze of smart home technology will evaporate after 5G comes of age, and so will the latency we’ve come to expect from having multiple always-on devices connected to local networks. 5G’s proposed “LPWAN” (low-power wide-area network) will allow multiple in-home devices to bypass home networks, and the required setup, and achieve a direct connection instead. This results in less of a burden on your home network and better stability and less downtime for your IoT devices, which previously were subjected to the sometimes unpredictable performance of Wi-Fi.
There’s a lot more potential impact here than we likely have time for — and some of it concerns the privacy and security side of real estate law. When it becomes more widely available, 5G will do two things to home security. The first is that remote areas will become easier to serve for home security and property monitoring providers. The second is that surveillance technology will become, if anything, more pervasive than it already is, thanks to 5G’s ability to provide low-power connectivity to security cameras and similar equipment.
Nevertheless, we have every reason to expect the arrival of 5G to be a net positive. And its influence will go far beyond our dwellings, too. As it connects our homes, it soon might connect our towns and cities, too.
5G in the home and beyond
One of the next big projects for developed nations is to build a smarter electric grid. 5G could provide an important missing piece of the puzzle by providing faster and more secure communication between “nodes” — whether it’s a plant or a home solar array — in the larger grid. Better coordination means a more dependable supply of power for communities.
And there are other ways that 5G will benefit our communities and cities:
- The creation of smarter neighborhoods and communities: According to research, the market for smart city 5G technology will have reached $2.57 trillion in value by 2025. It’s no wonder why, either — 5G will be a boon when it comes to managing traffic alerts and construction projects, handling disaster responsiveness and public outreach, facilitating communication between driverless cars and local infrastructure, and much more.
- Become a value-add (or an eyesore) in the real estate marketplace: The 5G standard is expected to have quite an effect in the real estate market. One of the downsides is that local governments and municipalities have found themselves tussling with the FCC, which wants control over proposed sites for future 5G towers. The good news is smart home functionality powered by 5G is a much better way to “sweeten the pot” in residential and commercial real estate deals than previous generations of technology, thanks to the much more streamlined and user-friendly technology.
Smart homes look promising already, but the idea of having them become part of a living mesh network, where data about traffic patterns and weather systems, notifications from municipalities and utilities about the power supply and other public services, can be shared rapidly, and with more participants than ever, garners more excitement.