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5G devices evolve beyond smartphones to prop up IoT

Research details dynamic trajectory of 5G devices, from smartphones to pioneering reduced capability and battery-less ambient IoT devices

The landscape of 5G devices is evolving rapidly to meet the diverse needs of various use cases, ranging from smartphones to specialised internet of things (IoT) and emerging battery-less ambient IoT devices, highlighting the versatile future of 5G technology, according to research from mobile trade association 5G Americas.

The briefing paper, Evolving devices for 5G adoption, from the organisation whose mission is to facilitate and advocate for the advancement of 5G throughout and beyond the Americas, examined the evolution of 5G devices, shedding light on the optimisation and adaptation of 5G technologies that cater to a wide array of use cases. Indeed, the association said this evolving landscape presents exciting opportunities across IoT, XR and beyond.

The paper encompassed a variety of current and future 5G devices, ranging from smartphones to the recently announced Reduced Capability (RedCap) and battery-less ambient IoT devices. 5G Americas categorised these devices based on various factors, emphasising optimisation for IoT applications in terms of complexity, performance and efficiency.

Looking at device characteristics, the paper found that as 5G reshapes global communications, device features remain crucial. Specifically, it noted that characteristics such as mobility, bandwidth, size, accessibility, cost, security, coverage, battery life and radio access technology influence the design and functionality of 5G devices for various applications.

Beyond smartphones and into the device landscape, the study noted that the device ecosystem was rapidly growing to include AR glasses, voice-enabled devices and specialised IoT technologies. These developments, it said, were transforming industries, improving communication and enabling remote healthcare monitoring.

Reduced capability devices were also a key focus of the study. It noted that initially, 5G New Radio technology focused on enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) applications. 3GPP later introduced RedCap specifications in Release 17 to cater to low-throughput, cost-effective and energy-efficient use cases. These devices are said to offer a balanced solution for data rate, latency and battery life.

Ambient IoT devices are attracting much attention given that they operate solely on energy harvested from their environment, eliminating the need for batteries. Characterised by their small form, low cost, and ultra-low power consumption, 5G Americas noted that they find uses in various sectors, such as inventory management and environmental sensing.

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Commenting on the study, Chris Pearson, president of 5G Americas, said: “The evolution of 5G devices signifies a dynamic shift in connectivity, transforming industries and empowering individuals. From the power of smartphones to the promise of Ambient IoT, this briefing paper unveils the future diversity of 5G devices.”

Yuchul Kim, principal engineer of Qualcomm Technologies, Inc, and working group co-leader of this 5G Americas project, added: “This 5G Americas paper provides a holistic view of how 5G devices are evolving to address the diverse needs of today’s interconnected world, and serves as a testament to the continuing innovation driving towards new services offered by the 5G industry.”

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