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MIT Will Discuss 5G And The Future Of Work

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5G and the future of work is one of the topics at the EmTech Next conference June 11 and 12 at the MIT Media Lab.

The fifth generation of wireless technology—5G—promises faster service, more data, and more devices connected to each other.

U.S. cell phone companies have unveiled new 5G phones and small 5G networks this year, and more is coming. But it’s not just about better cell service.

The last generation, 4G, is widely credited with enabling the rise of online shopping and services like Uber. Now, analysts say 5G technology could do the same for virtual reality and the internet of things.

The result, they say, could be revolutionary. Think dressing rooms for online shopping in which you can feel the clothes without actually being there. Smart homes that make Nest and voice-controlled light switches look like dunces.

And, of course, 5G could transform many industries. Not just communication and media, but manufacturing, healthcare, even agriculture.

“Car-to-car communications, communication for safety, and possibly self-driving cars down the road,” Muriel Médard told Living Lab Radio.

Médard is the Cecil H. Green Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT and is one of the speakers at the EmTech Next conference June 11 and 12 at the MIT Media Lab.

Médard said it’s not only the speed of the network but also the reliability that is key.

“If one can count on reliable services that allow remote operation of certain aspects of our work lives--not just of course what we're used to right now, which would be say a teleconference--that's where you change the way people work quite a bit,” she said.

“But I hesitate to say ‘virtual reality.’ Let's say, a more enhanced presence. Or a wider variety of applications that could really change where we work and what the expectations are of how people interact with each other.”

Even with the promise and potential of 5G, it's not known when such a network will be ready throughout the United States. But several cities are poised to grow their networks this year. 

Elsa Partan is a producer for Living Lab Radio. She first came to the station in 2002 as an intern and fell in love with radio. She is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. From 2006 to 2009, she covered the state of Wyoming for the NPR member station Wyoming Public Media in Laramie. She was a newspaper reporter at The Mashpee Enterprise from 2010 to 2013. She lives in Falmouth with her husband and two daughters.