Is 5G Ready For The Forces Of Nature?
Markus Lutz, Forbes Councils Member, Forbes Technology Council, forbes.com, 5 October 2020
Markus Lutz is CTO and Founder of SiTime Corporation. He is a MEMS expert, a prolific entrepreneur and inventor who holds over 100 patents.
This leap in performance means that data and video downloads will be up to 10 times faster, using 10 times more bandwidth. The lower latency (just 1-10 milliseconds) will enable prompt updates for remote monitoring in healthcare and rapid responses to changes in traffic conditions in advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and, eventually, fully autonomous vehicles. The low latency rate will enable applications that rely on time-sensitive operations, such as autonomous vehicles in smart cities and telemedicine.
In industrial applications, machine-to-machine (M2M) connectivity will advance smart factories, machine learning, AI and other systems to reduce downtime and improve productivity via intelligent networks.
The Benefits Of 5G
Initially, precise, mission-critical electronics were deployed indoors, in temperature-controlled environments. Later, they moved outdoors as cellphones and wearable devices became popular but were still connected to humans, controlling temperature, vibration, etc.
For a new era of communications, a new approach using newer technologies is required. With the advent of 5G, the massive increase in data volume in vehicles alone will require more networking equipment to be placed outdoors and exposed to the environmental forces of nature. The proliferation of the IoT as part of the smart city infrastructure also increases the need for electronics sited in uncontrolled environments yet still expected to operate reliably and with minimal intervention.
In these locations, electronics will be subject to multiple forces of nature, but there will be no margin for error. Devices will be part of networks that include exposed radio and antenna or moving nodes in transport systems. They may be subjected to environmental stresses such as shock, vibration, temperature changes, wind, lightning and high humidity. Engineers and developers are acutely aware that in safety-critical applications, such as autonomous vehicles, there is no tolerance for failure in the radio-to-radio transmission of vital data between nodes on the network.
5G And The Importance Of Timing
Such outdoor locations can present design dilemmas. Nature is a mix of mechanical and electrical forces, but most components that make up a system are electronic. The exceptions are sensors and timing devices, which are both mechanical and electronic. It is these components that may be on the critical path to achieving a system’s reliable operation in these conditions.
Timing is the heartbeat of an electronics system because the vibrating, mechanical element must provide a precision reference even if used in an uncontrolled or harsh environment. Consequently, a timing component has to be rugged and reliable to withstand mechanical forces and environmental stressors.
Addressing the historical environmental challenges in the 5G infrastructure calls for the use of newer technologies. An example is MEMS (micro-electro-mechanical systems) for timing. First introduced around 15 years ago, these devices have many characteristics that make them ideally suited to handling environmental stressors. They are up to 3,000 times smaller and lighter than conventional timing technologies, making them less susceptible to mechanical forces such as shock and vibration. For example, they demonstrate 40 times better vibration resistance than quartz components and 20 times better resistance to temperature and airflow changes.
The 5G infrastructure means that cells are more densely located than with 4G. This means radios may be sited on poles, where they are exposed to environmental stressors that may affect performance. Each radio is synchronized to radios in the same time domain. Any time difference from one tower to the next results in a dropped signal. In comparison to 4G’s time difference between radio towers of 1.5 microseconds, enhanced 5G features such as MIMO, carrier aggregation, and RF beam steering have an even smaller timing error margin of just 130 nanoseconds.
In order to realize a connected world based on a fast, reliable 5G infrastructure, there has been an acceleration of new technologies that need to exhibit environmental resilience.
Consumer and commercial users are ready and eager for 5G, and the industry must ensure that it can supply effective outdoor electronics as part of the 5G infrastructure. This means that all electronic equipment has to be designed with environmental resilience in mind. Reliable, efficient systems will increasingly use newer, more technologically advanced components for this new wave of electronic equipment.
Only when reliable, proven components are immediately available and ready for deployment can we capitalize on the new opportunities 5G presents.
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Markus Lutz is CTO and Founder of SiTime Corporation. He is a MEMS expert, a prolific entrepreneur and inventor who holds over 100 patents. Read Markus Lutz' full…