July 5, 2018

5G Use Case: A Look at Network Slicing for Enterprise Augmented Reality Applications

Large-scale events and citywide environments can benefit from using designated 5G network slices to boost efficiency, logistics and experience.

Augmented reality (AR) is often discussed in terms of consumer gaming applications. Remember the impact of Pokémon Go when it launched in July 2016? Images of teenagers and adults roaming the streets staring at their phones like Dr. Leonard McCoy would stare at his medical tricorder on Star Trek changed the world of gaming forever. But make no bones about it; AR-related applications focused on the enterprise will show significant promise as 5G networks emerge. AR is already being used successfully in warehouse environments to increase operational efficiency around logistics. For example, AR can be used to provide optimized directions to forklift drivers for where to move and store specific palettes of shipped goods, to access full-video technical support on demand and to provide location-based safety warnings that greatly reduce workplace accidents. These AR applications have largely been deployed in Wi-Fi-enabled environments, but they can be expanded and improved upon when brought into citywide scenarios thanks to 5G.

Consider a city undertaking a major series of events, like the World Cup, the Super Bowl, the Olympics or even a large convention like Mobile World Congress. These events typically consume city resources for a matter of days or weeks and will inundate stadiums, conference hall areas or specific regions with shipments of goods. Coordination of goods and services to such large events creates challenges around delivery timing, locations, traffic management and environment concerns. Without coordination and easy access to logistical information, navigation and specific guidance, the entire process risks being highly inefficient or dangerous. Unnecessary driving due to poor navigation increases the time to destination, increases fuel consumption and diesel pollution, and can create a domino effect for everyone from drivers and dock foremen to event coordinators. Any event must have deliveries timed based on ease of access to docking areas, and any mistimed deliveries mean large vehicles clogging waiting areas and destroying logistics efficiency.

The 5G network can provide a dedicated network slice to guarantee bandwidth for enterprise AR applications, providing a visual overlay of the city, receiving areas, pre-mapped and pre-timed traffic routes as well as other related functions that help drivers navigate through the city safely and efficiently. AR apps can use location-based image enhancements to help vehicles approach venues via the correct entrances. All traffic moving in and out of venue gateways can be centrally coordinated. Likewise, artificial intelligence can help predict the best times for operations based on traffic volumes. AR can also provide local knowledge on how best to approach each dock; can warn of potential dangers like height limit obstructions, construction equipment, road damage and other active vehicles; and can offer notice of local regulations like fines issued for idle trucks. During the actual event, the 5G network slice can be repurposed for other applications, such as event-related services where a heavy number of users may demand specific applications. Once the event has concluded, the provider can repurpose the slice once again for something else.

While this is still in the use case phase, time-based 5G network slicing scenarios will likely emerge as an ideal way for wireless providers to guarantee quality of service. For scenarios like this, the end result is increased quality of experience for the event, organizers, participants, attendees and users.


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