With the dominoes falling into place, 5G services are going live around the world and Keysight has taken this opportunity to ‘set their stall out’ in what they believe will be a transformative era.

I’m sure by now that you’ve heard all about the speeds on offer with 5G and you’re quite possibly drooling over the prospect of buying a 5G enabled handset. But as expressed at this years Keysight World, 5G means far more than just high streaming speeds.

5G is being labelled as the technology with the capability to truly disrupt and transform our daily lives, but what does this actually mean?

5G as a foundation

Marie Hattar
Marie Hattar

Speaking in her keynote at Keysight World, Marie Hattar, Chief Marketing Officer at Keysight Technologies, foresees 5G becoming one of the key foundational blocks from which future technologies will be built upon.

We know that 5G is fast but what is it about 5G technology which makes it so transformative when compared to other wireless technologies?

The answer, it’s all about low latency. “Every millisecond counts when you’re trying to garner any near real-time response. When it comes to things like autonomous vehicles or any type of machinery, you can’t afford to have any delay,” said Hattar during an interview with EE Times Asia.

This concept opens up a whole ream of possibilities as you’re now able to consider applications which you couldn’t do before. We may even surmise that "Ready Player One’s not that far out there".

“The promise with LTE was higher bandwidth and you could sit in your car and watch videos, with 5G people talk about remote surgery, but I think you’ll see it much more in industrialisation,” said Hattar.

The current digital transformation on the factory floor, otherwise known as Industry 4.0, is a prime example as robots require real-time communication and calibration. The creation of digital twins is another area for which 5G could be a key enabler. If you’re creating a simulation of something which is real, then the feedback loop will need to be instantaneous for it to be predictive.

Remote surgery as a concept or even as a technological feat sounds incredible but how many of us would truly be comfortable with an operation when the surgeon isn’t in the room?

Working towards 5G

For Keysight, their expertise in 5G hasn’t happened over night, in fact, since they spun off from Agilent in 2014, they have made a number of acquisitions with one eye on being at the forefront of 5G technology.

Hattar explains that, “the acquisitions were about two things: we saw 5G as a growth opportunity and expanding our capabilities to allow us to address more of the challenges our customers would be facing as they rolled out this technology”.

The acquisition of Anite in 2015 helped Keysight provide more network emulation solutions and lent credibility to Keysight in the 5G chipset/modem makers space. This was then followed with the acquisition with Ixia in 2017 which has aided Keysight in the simulation of 5G on the base station and helped them to understand what will happen with that load on your network.

To accentuate the important role Keysight believes 5G will play, they have been involved with the standards bodies since the initial stages of develpoment, “we made a big bet early on this technology,” said Hattar. “We became involved very early on with a lot of the standards bodies and made some bets on the direction of the technology.”

Keysight took the approach to partner with some of the key players in the 5G ecosystem which even had an impact on how they innovate. Hattar explains that, “it was no longer a scenario where we wait to build the product to make it available to them, we were actually co-developing with them”. As a result of just how fast the standards were evolving Keysight went from “developing a software load every 3 months” to reaching a point where “we had software loads built daily, just to keep pace with the ecosystem”.

Cybersecurity in the ‘connected world’

We are now at a technology inflection point according to Keysight’s Gooi Soon Chai, Senior Vice President and President, Electronic Industrial Solutions Group, who believes that 5G will give rise to the ‘connected world’. He has already lived through two major technology revolutions, firstly with the PC in the 70s, then again in the 90s with the internet but now Gooi believes that 5G will enable his third.

Gooi Soon Chai
Gooi Soon Chai

Gooi prefers to use the phrase ‘connected world’ rather than IoT as “we’re now talking about technology which changes society, how we interact and even how we’re governed”.

Gooi explains that Keysight have styled their solution suite around the needs of the new connected world. He refers to them as the “4 Pillars” which are intelligence, communication, power and security.

As we move towards a more personal devices in a connected world, every country is going to be worried about cybersecurity. In a sobering exchange, Gooi highlights that “it’s no longer just about data, if you think losing your credit card information is bad just wait until someone takes control of your heart monitoring tool”.

Test & measurement has moved away from testing just for functionality to becoming mission critical. So, what if your phone stops working, it’s a pain but life goes on, but this may not be the case if it combusts while you’re holding it next to your ear.

The important role of test & measurement can truly be felt in the automotive industry where the new reality is that cyber-attacks against automobiles could result in the loss of human life.

In an attempt to stay ahead of cyber vulnerabilities in the connected world, Keysight have developed an automotive cybersecurity program that allows car OEMs to shore up their vehicle defences through penetration testing.

“Cybersecurity is becoming more crucial as car manufacturers are looking into multiple layers of security,” he said. Gooi explains that the car of the future will have various points of vulnerability if not properly secured.

Firstly, the car will have an external internet as it will need to be connected to the external environment. Inside the car you also have the automotive internet which controls the car itself and then you have the module level of penetration.

Car designers are now talking about creating protocols and redundancies to stop an intrusion from taking control of the car without first hacking each and every independent module within the car.