What Is 5G and How Does It Work?

By: Daniel Tomlinson
Project Engineer

18th July 2019

5 minute read

Home » IoT

As a society that is becoming increasingly dependent on data driven applications, 5G promises to provide better connectivity and faster speeds for our network devices. However, whilst the previous generations of mobile communications have been fairly analogous to each other in terms of distribution and multiple user access, 5G will be drastically different – making it a challenging system to implement. So, how does it work?

Initial Concept

Enhanced Mobile, Massive iot, low latency, the 5G Triangle
Fig 1 – The 5G Triangle

 

As with any concept, 5G was initially based on a very broad and ambiguous set of standards, which promised low latency, speeds in the region of Gbps and better connectivity. Whilst no intricacies of the system were known at the time, we knew that in order to achieve faster data rates and larger bandwidths we would have to move to higher frequencies – and this is where the problem occurs. Due to the severe amounts of atmospheric attenuation that’s experienced by high frequency signals, range and power become serious issues that our current systems aren’t capable of handling.

Range & Power

A modern GSM tower features multiple cellular base stations, that together, are designed to transmit 360⁰ horizontally and at a range in the order of tens of miles, depending on the terrain. However, if you were to consider that the received power transmitted from a cellular base station degrades with distance at a rate of…

And that by factoring in frequency, this effect worsens…

…it becomes obvious that transmitting over larger distances and at higher frequencies becomes exponentially inefficient. Therefore, a key part of the 5G overhaul would require thousands of miniature base stations to be strategically placed in dense, urban environments in order to maximise capacity with minimal obstructions.

Directivity

5G Radiation pattern
Fig 2 – Radiation Pattern of an Isotropic Antenna versus an Antenna with Gain (Dipole)

 

One way to increase the range of a transceiver, whilst keeping the power output the same, is to incorporate gain into the antenna. This is achieved by focusing the transmitted power towards a particular point as opposed to equally in all directions (isotropic).

Figure 1 shows such a comparison, in which, a dipole antenna’s energy is being focused in the direction of 180 and 0 degrees. Equation three reflects this additional factor:

However, as the essence of a wireless handset is portability, it is likely to move around a lot with the user. Therefore, a high gain 5G transmitter would still require a tracking system to ensure that it stays focused directly at the end user’s handset.

User Tracking

One solution for tracking devices could be to employ a high frequency transceiver with a phased array antenna structure. This would act as a typical base station, capable of transmitting and receiving, but an array of hundreds of small scale patch antennas (and some DSP magic) would make it capable of beamforming. This would not only allow the structure to transmit high gain signals but to also steer the beam by changing the relative phase of the output.

However, as this is a technically complex system that has yet to be implemented on such a large scale, the technology is still in its infancy and is currently being trialled in select areas only. Considerable efforts will have to be made to ensure that such a transceiver could operate in a bustling environment where multipath and body-blocking would cause strong interference.

5G in 2019

3GPP (the 3rd Generation Partnership Project) is an organisation that was established in 1998 and helped to produce the original standards for 3G. It has since gone on to produce the specs for 4G, LTE and is currently working to achieve a 5G “ready system” in 2020.

With certain service carriers already having released 5G this year in certain parts of America, 2019 will be welcoming numerous 5G handsets from several of the flagships giants like Samsung, LG, Huawei and even Xiaomi – a budget smartphone manufacturer.

As with previous generations though, only limited coverage will be available at first (and at a hefty premium), but in practice, it will be fairly similar to Wi-Fi hot-spotting. A lot of work is still required to overcome the issues as discussed above.

As a society that is becoming increasingly dependent on data driven applications, 5G promises to provide better connectivity and faster speeds for our network devices. However, whilst the previous generations of mobile communications have been fairly analogous to each other in terms of distribution and multiple user access, 5G will be drastically different – making it a challenging system to implement. So, how does it work?

Initial Concept

Enhanced Mobile, Massive iot, low latency, the 5G Triangle
Fig 1 – The 5G Triangle

As with any concept, 5G was initially based on a very broad and ambiguous set of standards, which promised low latency, speeds in the region of Gbps and better connectivity. Whilst no intricacies of the system were known at the time, we knew that in order to achieve faster data rates and larger bandwidths we would have to move to higher frequencies – and this is where the problem occurs. Due to the severe amounts of atmospheric attenuation that’s experienced by high frequency signals, range and power become serious issues that our current systems aren’t capable of handling.

Range & Power

A modern GSM tower features multiple cellular base stations, that together, are designed to transmit 360⁰ horizontally and at a range in the order of tens of miles, depending on the terrain. However, if you were to consider that the received power transmitted from a cellular base station degrades with distance at a rate of…

And that by factoring in frequency, this effect worsens…

…it becomes obvious that transmitting over larger distances and at higher frequencies becomes exponentially inefficient. Therefore, a key part of the 5G overhaul would require thousands of miniature base stations to be strategically placed in dense, urban environments in order to maximise capacity with minimal obstructions.

Directivity

5G Radiation pattern
Fig 2 – Radiation Pattern of an Isotropic Antenna versus an Antenna with Gain (Dipole)

One way to increase the range of a transceiver, whilst keeping the power output the same, is to incorporate gain in to the antenna. This is achieved by focusing the transmitted power towards a particular point as opposed to equally in all directions (isotropic).

Figure 1 shows such a comparison, in which, a dipole antenna’s energy is being focused in the direction of 180 and 0 degrees. Equation three reflects this additional factor:

However, as the essence of a wireless handset is portability, it is likely to move around a lot with the user. Therefore, a high gain 5G transmitter would still require a tracking system to ensure that it stays focused directly at the end user’s handset.

User Tracking

One solution for tracking devices could be to employ a high frequency transceiver with a phased array antenna structure. This would act as a typical base station, capable of transmitting and receiving, but an array of hundreds of small scale patch antennas (and some DSP magic) would make it capable of beamforming. This would not only allow the structure to transmit high gain signals but to also steer the beam by changing the relative phase of the output.

However, as this is a technically complex system that has yet to be implemented on such a large scale, the technology is still in its infancy and is currently being trialled in select areas only. Considerable efforts will have to be made to ensure that such a transceiver could operate in a bustling environment where multipath and body-blocking would cause strong interference.

5G in 2019

3GPP (the 3rd Generation Partnership Project) is an organisation that was established in 1998 and helped to produce the original standards for 3G. It has since gone on to produce the specs for 4G, LTE and is currently working to achieve a 5G “ready system” in 2020.

With certain service carriers already having released 5G this year in certain parts of America, 2019 will be welcoming numerous 5G handsets from several of the flagships giants like Samsung, LG, Huawei and even Xiaomi – a budget smartphone manufacturer.

As with previous generations though, only limited coverage will be available at first (and at a hefty premium), but in practice, it will be fairly similar to Wi-Fi hot-spotting. A lot of work is still required to overcome the issues as discussed above.

Nick Koiza, Head of Security Business, features in Cambridge Wireless News this week.

The role of IoT in facilitating effective safe city solutions is currently a hot topic. Plextek has been deploying numerous IoT sensor solutions over the years and in this article, Nick Koiza, Head of Security Business, assesses key drivers and strategies for successfully fulfilling smart sensing solutions from a public safety perspective.

To read the full article click here.

Can the internet of things save the planet? article image

“Only governments can fix the problem of global warming, right?

The massive change in behaviour that we need across the board is only going to happen because governments mandate it. Businesses and individuals will accept this and do what they are told, or will be incentivised to do so. I guess that’s how we tend to think it will play out…”

Our CEO, Nicholas Hill features in Disruption Hub this week.

To read the full article click here.

industry 4.0

Principles of Industry 4.0 and the 9 Pillars

Dave Burrel - Senior Consultant, Product Design

By: David Burrell
Senior Consultant, Project Design

7th February 2019

Home » IoT

Industry 4.0 (i4.0) refers to the exciting area of automation within manufacturing including IOT, robotics, cloud computing and data management. We can look to the not-very-distant future and see robotics, sensors and integrated systems playing a huge part of a normal manufacturing process. With technologists and engineers regularly discussing topics like the “Smart Factory” and the “4th Industrial Revolution”, David Burrell, Senior Consultant of our Manufacturing Services, discusses what Plextek has been up to in this arena:

“It is interesting to see all the excitement around i4.0 and how we should all be getting involved. But in the end you have to ask yourself, what does it really mean and surely we have been doing this kind of thing for years? In reality, i4.0 is largely the repackaging and combination of capabilities and technologies that already exist; but providing the overall wrapper that enables total interoperability, collecting Big Data, manipulating it and then applying it as positive feedback to improve functionality and efficiency.

“If we look at the 9 pillars of Industry 4.0 below, I have assigned examples to each pillar to show how existing systems, technologies and ideas can be applied to the Industry 4.0 framework:

  1. IOT: IOT gives us the ability to realise Smart Cities: for example, we developed and implemented an intelligent street lighting system and network which can now be enhanced to incorporate collation of environmental data and additional video links.
  2. Big Data: Within the field of vehicle tracking, companies can now manage and interpret Insurance data to enable the interpretation of driver behaviour and accidents.
  3. Cloud Computing: Harvesting large quantities of data involves careful management, and providing a ‘Data warehouse’ facility to organisations is invaluable.
  4. Advanced Simulation: Complex algorithms and testing them allows for projects like inner-city intelligent parking or a ‘Dead reckoning’ capability for GPS denied environments to come to fruition.
  5. Autonomous systems: More systems in business are becoming autonomous and need less human intervention to provide effective results.  We’ve applied this to a transport scenario, with an interesting project recently completed around object and vehicle detection.
  6. Universal Integration: Integrating Factory Test equipment and a bespoke Manufacturing Execution System can enable remote access and feedback into product test yield, improving projections.
  7. Augmented Reality: By creating computer-generated perceptual information it is becoming easier to train your staff, even in unique and difficult conditions. It is very hard for example to provide training scenarios for humanitarian crisis aid or battlefield healthcare without risky in-field training unless you consider AR.
  8. Additive Manufacture: Application of AM techniques to achieve fast market entry and creative solutions is becoming more important in a competitive environment. I have previously written a blog on the 4 steps of Additive Manufacture.
  9. Cyber Security: Security of your infrastructure, both online and offline is a business critical factor. Bespoke systems design will ensure your organisations’ Data Integrity

Having all of these capabilities is all well and good but that is just the beginning, they need to be applied to something in an interconnected way within the manufacturing environment to be counted as Industry 4.0, but that is only an application specific criteria. Industry 4.0 is an exciting area as innovation is combined with sustainable processes.”

For an initial chat about Industry 4.0 and how we can help future-proof your business, then get in touch.

Industry 4.0 (i4.0) refers to the exciting area of automation within manufacturing including IOT, robotics, cloud computing and data management. We can look to the not-very-distant future and see robotics, sensors and integrated systems playing a huge part of a normal manufacturing process. With technologists and engineers regularly discussing topics like the “Smart Factory” and the “4th Industrial Revolution”, David Burrell, Senior Consultant of our Manufacturing Services, discusses what Plextek has been up to in this arena:

“It is interesting to see all the excitement around i4.0 and how we should all be getting involved. But in the end you have to ask yourself, what does it really mean and surely we have been doing this kind of thing for years? In reality, i4.0 is largely the repackaging and combination of capabilities and technologies that already exist; but providing the overall wrapper that enables total interoperability, collecting Big Data, manipulating it and then applying it as positive feedback to improve functionality and efficiency.

“If we look at the 9 pillars of Industry 4.0 below, I have assigned examples to each pillar to show how existing systems, technologies and ideas can be applied to the Industry 4.0 framework:

  1. IOT: IOT gives us the ability to realise Smart Cities: for example, we developed and implemented an intelligent street lighting system and network which can now be enhanced to incorporate collation of environmental data and additional video links.
  2. Big Data: Within the field of vehicle tracking, companies can now manage and interpret Insurance data to enable the interpretation of driver behaviour and accidents.
  3. Cloud Computing: Harvesting large quantities of data involves careful management, and providing a ‘Data warehouse’ facility to organisations is invaluable.
  4. Advanced Simulation: Complex algorithms and testing them allows for projects like inner-city intelligent parking or a ‘Dead reckoning’ capability for GPS denied environments to come to fruition.
  5. Autonomous systems: More systems in business are becoming autonomous and need less human intervention to provide effective results.  We’ve applied this to a transport scenario, with an interesting project recently completed around object and vehicle detection.
  6. Universal Integration: Integrating Factory Test equipment and a bespoke Manufacturing Execution System can enable remote access and feedback into product test yield, improving projections.
  7. Augmented Reality: By creating computer-generated perceptual information it is becoming easier to train your staff, even in unique and difficult conditions. It is very hard for example to provide training scenarios for humanitarian crisis aid or battlefield healthcare without risky in-field training unless you consider AR.
  8. Additive Manufacture: Application of AM techniques to achieve fast market entry and creative solutions is becoming more important in a competitive environment. I have previously written a blog on the 4 steps of Additive Manufacture.
  9. Cyber Security: Security of your infrastructure, both online and offline is a business critical factor. Bespoke systems design will ensure your organisations’ Data Integrity

Having all of these capabilities is all well and good but that is just the beginning, they need to be applied to something in an interconnected way within the manufacturing environment to be counted as being Industry 4.0, but that is only an application specific criteria.

Industry 4.0 is an exciting area as innovation is combined with sustainable processes.  For an initial chat about Industry 4.0 and how we can help future-proof your business, then get in touch.

Internet of things, plextek

IoT Security in a Fragmented Marketplace

Rob Karplinski - Project Engineer, Embedded Systems

By: Rob Karpinski
Project Engineer, Embedded Systems

22nd March 2018

Home » IoT

Since the rise of IoT, companies and manufacturers both large and small have rushed to try and capitalise on this growing technology and, arguably, there are now a lot of competing communication and connection methods for IoT products out there.

A lot of these are from the Eastern marketplace and are commonly produced by China to offer consumers a “cheap” alternative to Western products, provided by companies like Apple, Philips or Hewlett Packard.

This raises a couple of security concerns as consumers now face a commercial marketplace with a lot of similar looking products that all vaguely do the same thing but connect to the internet in different ways. A driving force in the popularity of Chinese products is their price, after all, why would you pay £179 for a Nest Cam Outdoor when you can get a cheaper Xiongmai camera module for a fraction of the price?

The Mirai Botnet

One example of unsecured IoT devices being exploited was the Mirai botnet scandal in 2016. To gain a competitive advantage in the computer game, Minecraft three college students unwittingly unleashed a botnet that spread across poorly secured IoT devices and wireless routers, slowing down or stopping completely internet access for nearly the entire eastern United States. The malware infiltrated a dozen different IoT devices (including CCTV cameras and digital video recorders) by scanning the internet for connected technology that still used the manufacturers’ default security setting. Researchers later determined that it infected between 200,000 and 300,000 devices overall (including Xiongmai products, initiating a product recall) – the largest distributed denial of service attack (DDoS) ever launched.

The “S” in IoT stands for Security

Due to the highly networked nature of Internet of Things devices and the rising privacy concerns over how device data is being used (or misused) in the profiling and targeting of people, ensuring a secure IoT device has never been more important for tech product companies that want to be perceived as trusted and innovative market leaders.

Playing an active part in this industry myself (both as an engineer and consumer of tech), I believe engineers should always stay focused on these technical, logical, and ethical challenges when evolving the use of this internet-connected technology. As a consumer, the majority of IoT devices are secure but always ensure you update your devices with the latest firmware and software updates.

Since the rise of IoT, companies and manufacturers both large and small have rushed to try and capitalise on this growing technology and, arguably, there are now a lot of competing communication and connection methods for IoT products out there.

A lot of these are from the Eastern marketplace and are commonly produced by China to offer consumers a “cheap” alternative to Western products, provided by companies like Apple, Philips or Hewlett Packard.

This raises a couple of security concerns as consumers now face a commercial marketplace with a lot of similar looking products that all vaguely do the same thing but connect to the internet in different ways. A driving force in the popularity of Chinese products is their price, after all, why would you pay £179 for a Nest Cam Outdoor when you can get a cheaper Xiongmai camera module for a fraction of the price?

The Mirai Botnet

One example of unsecured IoT devices being exploited was the Mirai botnet scandal in 2016. To gain a competitive advantage in the computer game, Minecraft three college students unwittingly unleashed a botnet that spread across poorly secured IoT devices and wireless routers, slowing down or stopping completely internet access for nearly the entire eastern United States. The malware infiltrated a dozen different IoT devices (including CCTV cameras and digital video recorders) by scanning the internet for connected technology that still used the manufacturers’ default security setting. Researchers later determined that it infected between 200,000 and 300,000 devices overall (including Xiongmai products, initiating a product recall) – the largest distributed denial of service attack (DDoS) ever launched.

The “S” in IoT stands for Security

Due to the highly networked nature of Internet of Things devices and the rising privacy concerns over how device data is being used (or misused) in the profiling and targeting of people, ensuring a secure IoT device has never been more important for tech product companies that want to be perceived as trusted and innovative market leaders.

Playing an active part in this industry myself (both as an engineer and consumer of tech), I believe engineers should always stay focused on these technical, logical, and ethical challenges when evolving the use of this internet-connected technology. As a consumer, the majority of IoT devices are secure but always ensure you update your devices with the latest firmware and software updates.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save