Today, Internet is everything! It is created to provide interoperable communication across the globe for an unmatched exchange of multimedia and data content. Further it has also evolved from 2G to 3G, then 4G to now 5G, while taking technological innovations forward with it. 5G is not just a technological or wireless upgrade, but has also ushered us to a world of accelerating and disruptive change. After fueling developments in Internet of Things (IoT), and driving a new industrial age – industry 4.0, it is now paving the way for Tactile Internet. While IoT drove automation with a wide array of Internet-enabled gadgets, Tactile Internet promises to take it many notches forward.
This term was coined by Professor Gerhard Fettweis from the Technical University of Dresden in Germany, in early 2014. The same year, in August, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) defined the Tactile Internet as an Internet network featuring low latency, an extremely short transit, a high availability, high reliability and a high level of security. It will depend on cloud computing proximity (Mobile Edge-Cloud) and the virtual or augmented reality for sensory and haptic controls. In its 2018 paper, titled ‘Tactile Internet enabled by Pervasive Networks,’ Accenture says that Tactile Internet, will enable remote, real-time physical interaction with real and virtual objects, creating a two-way interactive experience in which boundaries between the real world and virtual world will blur.
Tactile Internet will employ 5G’s URLLC (Ultra-Reliable Low Latency Communication) capabilities to deliver an ultra-fast internet connection to users that can enable haptic interaction with visual feedback. Here the visual feedbacks refers to audiovisual interaction, robotic systems that can be controlled in real-time and actuating robots. With the increased availability of high-speed internet connectivity, its low-latency feature will pilot enhanced human-machine (haptic) interaction, which can be transported to the other side of the world in real-time. All formats of the tactile effect data (waveform, frequency, length, etc.) are hosted on a remote server. Since IoT already offers connectivity, accessing this data online, to enabled detailed haptic effects will be possible without relying on internal storage space. Advocates of this technology suggest establishing it in areas where machines can supplement human abilities instead of replacing them. ITU mentions that Tactile Internet will even benefit VR by providing the low-latency communication necessary to enable ‘Shared Haptic Virtual Environments’, where several users are physically coupled via a VR simulation to perform tasks that require fine-motor skills.
While 5G offers high-speed connectivity, faster data upload and download speeds, greater bandwidth, and more stable connections than its predecessors, it also boasts of specific characteristics and functions that can fulfill the pre-requisites of Tactile Internet. 1ms end-to-end latency is a must of tactile communications. According to ITU, for technical systems to match humans’ interaction with their environment, our natural reaction times set the targets that technical specifications must meet.
Next, for critical tasks to be executed, like telepresence robotics, telesurgery, the outage should not increase a second per year. One also needs sufﬁcient capacity to allow large numbers of devices to expedite communication with each other simultaneously and autonomously. Since most of the processing will occur at the edge, we need an underlying network infrastructure that supports faster content and data transmission. Thanks to content caching, the edge will further allow the efficient processing of large volumes of 3D video, audio and haptic information captured by many devices and sensors near the users.
5G checks these boxes, as it has a latency time of under two milliseconds and can share data faster than what is possible with other existing network technologies. So, it is 5G that will bolster the Tactile Internet.
Tactile Internet will enable a plethora of new applications, products and services. Some of these are:
• E-commerce 4.0: The high-quality haptic feedback driven by Tactile Internet will revolutionize the e-commerce industry. Using haptics data can reproduce the exact texture the customer wants to feel will be available on the website server or app, of the clothes he wants to purchase. This data will be sent in real-time to his device with the 5G internet connection.
• Smart Grids: Current power grids cannot ensure a stable and thus reliable power supply when many decentralized energy suppliers inject power into the grid in an uncontrolled way. Smart grids distribute generated energy, avoid over-capacities, and ensure power supply stability– all activities that require low latency. Tactile Internet will help solve the problem of low latency, of smart grids. It will also empower dynamic activation and deactivation of local power generation and consumption, potentially even taking into account the AC phase information to minimize the generation of unusable reactive power.
• Healthcare: The healthcare industry generally revolves around the location of doctors and hospitals. Tactile Internet will help bring medical services available anywhere and at any time. These services include Tele-diagnosis, telesurgery and telerehabilitation. Using telerobots, teleoperation and telesurgery will cut the costs of traveling to surgeons. The telerobot used by the surgeons will have a response time similar to the surgeon. Even telerehabilitation at a patient’s home will bring higher therapy success rates as well as improved cost-efficiency.
• Improving lives of the Disabled: Tactile Internet has the potential to improve life for people living with disabilities. While, telerehabilitation features robotic exoskeletons based artificial limbs to improve the lives of people with motor disabilities, powered by haptic feedback, braille telecommunication will also be significantly improved. This can accelerate innovations in braille smartphones, where emitters would produce ‘bumps’ that can be felt and changed in seconds.
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