How 5G and IoT innovation can support an aging society
The world’s population is aging: virtually every country in the world is experiencing an increase in the number and proportion of older persons in their population. And in fact, that increase is projected to accelerate in the coming decades.
This will be one of the most significant social transformations of the twenty-first century, with implications for nearly all sectors of society, including labor and financial markets, as well as shaping demand for goods and services. In response, technologies such as artificial intelligence and automation have great potential to improve labor productivity amid a thinning working population.
In South Korea the fertility rate in the country has fallen to less than 1.3 children per woman for fifteen years in a row since 2001, and the Bank of Korea has warned that this demographic trend could lead the country’s economy to generate near-zero growth in 10 years. Annual GDP growth in the country, which averaged 3.9 percent between 2000 and 2015, could slow to 1.9 percent between 2016 and 2025, and then to 0.4 percent from 2026 to 2035. The bank has recommended extending working age and encouraging the economic participation of women to pick up slowing economic activity.
In response, the Nobel Prize Dialogue held in Seoul recently focused on the topic “The age to come”, with five Nobel Laureates, key opinion leaders, policy makers, researchers and the general public discussing the challenges of an aging population and how technology – particularly artificial intelligence (AI) – can support people as they grow older.
However, I would claim our seminar held in Seoul in conjunction with the Nobel Prize Dialogue – “Innovations for an aging society” – was an even more relevant discussion. In the seminar, we discussed technology innovations that support both the elderly population in general and older workers specifically. We also addressed the impact on the decreasing numbers of younger citizens of living and working in an increasingly older society.
Improving health and quality of life
In the first half of our seminar, we showed how technology can help older adults to improve their quality of life, stay healthier and live independently for longer.
Miran Mosmondor, senior researcher Ericsson Croatia, has for almost 10 years been involved in EU co-founded projects (which total more than EUR 700 million), collaborating with more than 40 world-leading industry researchers and medical partners. Together they have been working on setting up an Ambient Assisted Living (AAL) ecosystem and providing open source solutions for this eco-system.
Miran presented, “Intelligent care assistance for the support of loved ones,” and discussed a solution that gives family members the support they need to take care of older members of their family that might need assistance. Primary target users are older adults that live alone and may be in certain health risk groups but are otherwise in good health.
Peter Marshall, the principal 5G lead with King’s College in London for Ericsson, explained how 5G introduces the ability to transfer the sense of touch due to extremely low latency and increased reliability. Utilizing sight, sound and touch simultaneously opens a wide range of new and exciting opportunities to assist both industry and society. King’s College in London has together with Ericsson taken the opportunity to explore this in different contexts like remote healthcare, immersive experience of culture and arts, and how to transfer human knowledge remotely and enable anyone to become an expert.
Increasing efficiency in agriculture and industry
In the second half of our seminar, we showed how technology innovations can help increase efficiency in industries and agriculture, enabling for an older workforce or making up for a thinning working population.
Erik Josefsson, Head of Advanced Industries, Internet of Things, presented on how to catch the 5G and Industry 4.0 wave. Ericsson is, in fact, a big global manufacturing company. Our supply chain covers distribution to 185 countries with 2,100 international destinations and about 265 shipments per day. In this perspective, we know the importance of enhancing safety, increasing automation to meet labor shortage, and attracting top talent to industries.
Giulio Bottari, senior researcher Ericsson Italy, showed how 5G cloud robotics can be used to optimize winemaking. Connected agricultural robots, which are remotely monitored and controlled, are being developed by Zucchetti Centro Sistemi, an Ericsson partner in the 5G for Italy program. In this application, which includes terrain understanding and accurate location awareness, differential GPS technology is used to achieve a position accuracy of 3 centimeters. By having a centralized intelligence in the cloud, it is possible to continuously scan and analyze for disease prevention as well coordinate a group of agri-robots that work together in a large vineyard, each in its assigned area.
Ericsson has to date over 20 5G industry collaboration programs ongoing, from automated mining with Boliden, haptic feedback robots with ABB, a smart factory with SKF, and more. The clear message is that you cannot wait for 5G to arrive; you need to start with available technology, identify your use cases, and be part of forming tomorrow’s 5G specifications together with Ericsson.
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