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How to accelerate the world into the 5G era

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How to accelerate the world into the 5G era


Demand for 5G smartphones is reaching an all-time high

In 2021, consumers and institutions alike are fast-tracking a digital revolution in an unprecedented era of social distancing and remote work—a trend that may continue long after the pandemic subsides.

The time is ripe for many commercialized products and services to ride the wave of unparalleled high-speed connectivity and minimal latency enabled by 5G. Yet, the technology at the forefront of them all is without a doubt the smartphone. By combining mobile telephone and computing functions within a singular multi-purpose device, smartphones have brought about a profound scale of mobility and accessibility with one-stop services that empower consumers across every aspect of their daily lives.

Some may look back fondly on the good old days of the mobile phone, when voice calls and text messaging were all we had access to, in the absence of addictive social media platforms and the seemingly endless barrage of notifications we receive nowadays. Nonetheless, the instantaneous connectivity of ever-improving mobile networks and increasingly diverse applications of smartphones will undeniably continue to bring value to users.

According to a forecast by vivo, one of the leading smartphone makers, demand for 5G devices is catching up to the entirety of the smartphone market as researchers recorded exponential growth between 2020 and 2021.

Another report, published by Gartner, showed that the worldwide demand for smartphones with 5G capabilities more than doubled this year. “In 2020, consumers reduced spending on smartphones, but the availability of new products will see users drive significant uptick in demand in 2021. Lower-end 5G smartphones, which are becoming more prevalent outside China, are poised to drive more momentum for 5G smartphones in 2021 across all regions,” said Anshul Gupta, senior research director at Gartner.

How did we get to where we are today, and how did smartphone brands take us here? 

Defining the fifth generation

5G is the latest global wireless standard, otherwise known as the 5th generation of cellular mobile communication technology. Compared to 4G LTE technology, 5G increases flux density a hundredfold and connection density tenfold. This allows for a new kind of digital infrastructure that can connect virtually everything and everyone via peak data transmission speeds with minimal latency to provide a uniform experience to us all, culminating in higher efficiency and optimized performance to empower new user experiences.

Hundreds of thousands of industries are becoming integrated, owing to the reliable and streamlined network between machines, devices, and other digital objects. With many creative applications ranging from augmented reality/virtual reality experiences to vehicle-to-everything driverless cars and many more, 5G will provide humankind with the foundation to establish smart cities with comprehensive internet-of-things technologies that can efficiently restructure our lived environments and redefine our everyday lifestyles.

It goes without saying that 5G can facilitate limitless applications, on both industrial and consumer levels. For tech-savvy individuals accustomed to heavy device usage loads, 5G will be game-changing by elevating their collective digital devices into powerful, cloud-synced gateways capable of tapping into the most resource-intensive applications and data streams. Many industries are currently undergoing paradigm shifts as enterprises and countries race to propel society into the next phase of technological transformation.

Gearing up for the 5G race – a deep dive with vivo

The 5G technical standard was formed by a series of innovative R&D efforts led by companies such as vivo. The 5G products or services consumers are presented with today are actually a refined conglomeration of technologies formulated by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), a consortium of international telecom standards organizations that provide a stable platform for collaboration.

As the entire world becomes familiar with the limitless possibilities of contemporary mobile communications technology, consumers are looking to arm themselves with devices that contain cutting-edge capabilities in order to complement their connected and fast-paced daily lifestyles.

Corporations and governments are both racing to gear up in preparation for the new digital gold rush. Unbeknownst to many, battles are fought and alliances are formed every day as companies cannibalize each other in the race to hold the most patents for 5G technologies.

Vivo, one of the top players, has participated in the 3GPP 5G standard formulation for over five years. As one of many companies that set their sights on 5G technology, vivo established special 5G task forces back in December 2016 across Beijing and Shenzhen, China. One month later, vivo made its debut at the 2017 3GPP meeting. Since then, vivo has submitted over 5,000 5G proposals to the 3GPP, leading to 15 technical features and getting three technical projects approved. With more than 100 global standard experts staffed at its communication research institute, vivo now holds over 3,000 patents for 5G inventions.

User-oriented innovation

As a leading smartphone company with in-depth R&D capabilities, vivo is dedicated to accelerating the empowerment of consumers en masse in this new era by designing cutting-edge 5G smartphones that are available at every price point. Having amassed over 400 million users worldwide, vivo has a deep understanding of evolving consumer demands and strives to bridge users with the digital world by becoming one of the leading contributors to 5G technology in the industry.

“The main gateway for consumers to indulge in the new digital era must be the most accessible, portable, cost-effective, and readily available digital device of them all: the smartphone. A leader in both smartphone manufacturing and 5G connectivity, vivo has been designing a diverse lineup of products that are ready for the next generation of connectivity to bring joy to users worldwide at modest price points,” says Rakesh Tamrakar, 5G standards expert at vivo. 

Tamrakar has 20 years of experience in the mobile communications industry. He is one of the lead delegates representing vivo in the 3GPP, holds numerous patents, and has chaired multiple 3GPP RAN1 sessions (which specify the physical layer of radio interfaces) that led to the successful standardization of MIMO, NR on unlicensed spectrum technologies. Multiple Input Multiple Output (MIMO) is a key 5G technology that increases throughput and signal-to-noise ratio, while NR is a new radio interface and radio access technology for cellular networks. He has authored and contributed numerous technical papers on the subject of 3GPP RAN1 in 3G, 4G, and 5G standards.

“Brought to life by our strong R&D network across nine innovation centers and supported by research teams across the globe, vivo knows consumers best within the industry. We focus on innovations in hardware design and the software ecosystem to improve terminal performance and user experiences. Putting end users at the center of everything we do, vivo invests heavily into 5G connectivity to reach the stage of product realization and getting this technology into the hands of consumers,” he adds.

5G research, standardization, and industrialization by vivo

Vivo’s unique user-oriented innovation is the genesis behind its numerous patented contributions to 5G standards, many of which have been universally acclaimed at the 3GPP meeting and are currently already being adapted for everyday smartphone users.

One of vivo’s most notable contributions includes the standardization and performance enhancement of Rel-17 multi-SIM technology. Previously, an incoming voice call from one competing 5G SIM card would interrupt the data flow of the other, resulting in abysmal performance as one would cancel the other. Having discovered early on that consumers had a preference for 5G smartphones with dual-SIM card slots for greater flexibility in different usage scenarios, vivo researchers successfully sought to negate the clash, leading to the existence of multi-SIM 5G smartphones on the market today.  

The initial implementation of 5G technology was initially found to be quite resource-draining compared to devices running on 4G. However, consumers had grown accustomed to the substantial usage time allowed by previous smartphones.

Always innovating with the user in mind, the Rel-16 terminal power-saving technology patented by vivo manages to simplify terminal actions. It lowers normal energy consumption by creating a new “dozing” state, allowing the device software to become inactive while the hardware becomes idle. 5G smartphones can now intelligently catch every chance to take a rest, thereby prolonging battery life.

Additionally, vivo underwent algorithm and system optimization to facilitate this technology, combined with 120-watt fast charging to ensure complete user satisfaction with their devices. Select vivo smartphones are housed with a superconducting carbon fiber liquid cooling system to prevent device overheating, which is especially prevalent during intensive multimedia entertainment or e-sports usage scenarios.

Another issue raised by 5G technology is the increasing number of antennas and components installed inside a smartphone. However, users are relentless in their pursuit for ultra-thin smartphones encased in sleek metallic exteriors. Never one to disappoint, vivo’s proprietary 3D stack design uniquely encases all of this industry-leading technology to allow new 5G smartphones to be even slimmer than its 4G predecessors.

6G visionary

As 5G commercial networks are gradually deployed around the world and progressively advanced devices increasingly permeate every aspect of our livelihoods, thought leaders of the mobile industry are already looking forward to its next generation: 6G.

Vivo is part of a select few that hold the extensive expertise and in-depth understanding of consumer needs in order to turn this vision into a reality. Along with leading companies, research groups, and academic institutions, this combined elite collective is expected to reach a consensus on the ideation and requirements for this future generation of connectivity. To kickstart this exciting new era, the vivo Communications Research Institute (VCRI) released two white papers in late 2020 that break down the facets of 6G technology. Providing a diverse set of hypothetical scenarios and case studies, vivo communication standard experts have analyzed how the sixth generation will embody much more than technological transformation as it merges our physical and digital worlds.

“Currently, mobile infrastructure is still relatively isolated from the physical world, existing solely as an auxiliary tool for consumer usage. An extreme degree of seamlessness will be required to dynamically connect our physical surrounding with the omnipresent digital systems. In 2030 and beyond, 6G standard technologies will begin to foster a ubiquitous, sophisticated, real-time, and fully integrated digital world. This new realm will revolutionize thousands of industries with an extraordinary variety of applications to result in an efficient, sustainable, and eco-friendly future world,” says Tamrakar.  

6G communication systems will comprise many device terminals to realize the agile perception and accurate control between digital systems with our physical domain; this is comparable to the nerve endings that perceive essential information from every inch of the human body for our central nervous system to take responsive measures. As such, a large number of harmoniously connected and intelligent terminals in the form of smartphones or wearable devices will be fundamentally required in order for the entire IoE (internet-of-everything) system to be effective. To that end, vivo has launched a smartwatch, wireless earbuds, and Jovi AI assistant to introduce users to its own flourishing digital ecosystem.

Notwithstanding all of this exhaustive groundwork laid by technology companies, the 5G race and the 6G marathon are far from over. Nonetheless, affordable smartphones with innovative features will continue to act as the interface for everyday users to engage with the all-encompassing network infrastructure, to accelerate the impending intelligent transformation of society.

This content was produced by Insights, the custom content arm of MIT Technology Review. It was not written by MIT Technology Review’s editorial staff.

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The hunter-gatherer groups at the heart of a microbiome gold rush

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The hunter-gatherer groups at the heart of a microbiome gold rush


The first step to finding out is to catalogue what microbes we might have lost. To get as close to ancient microbiomes as possible, microbiologists have begun studying multiple Indigenous groups. Two have received the most attention: the Yanomami of the Amazon rainforest and the Hadza, in northern Tanzania. 

Researchers have made some startling discoveries already. A study by Sonnenburg and his colleagues, published in July, found that the gut microbiomes of the Hadza appear to include bugs that aren’t seen elsewhere—around 20% of the microbe genomes identified had not been recorded in a global catalogue of over 200,000 such genomes. The researchers found 8.4 million protein families in the guts of the 167 Hadza people they studied. Over half of them had not previously been identified in the human gut.

Plenty of other studies published in the last decade or so have helped build a picture of how the diets and lifestyles of hunter-gatherer societies influence the microbiome, and scientists have speculated on what this means for those living in more industrialized societies. But these revelations have come at a price.

A changing way of life

The Hadza people hunt wild animals and forage for fruit and honey. “We still live the ancient way of life, with arrows and old knives,” says Mangola, who works with the Olanakwe Community Fund to support education and economic projects for the Hadza. Hunters seek out food in the bush, which might include baboons, vervet monkeys, guinea fowl, kudu, porcupines, or dik-dik. Gatherers collect fruits, vegetables, and honey.

Mangola, who has met with multiple scientists over the years and participated in many research projects, has witnessed firsthand the impact of such research on his community. Much of it has been positive. But not all researchers act thoughtfully and ethically, he says, and some have exploited or harmed the community.

One enduring problem, says Mangola, is that scientists have tended to come and study the Hadza without properly explaining their research or their results. They arrive from Europe or the US, accompanied by guides, and collect feces, blood, hair, and other biological samples. Often, the people giving up these samples don’t know what they will be used for, says Mangola. Scientists get their results and publish them without returning to share them. “You tell the world [what you’ve discovered]—why can’t you come back to Tanzania to tell the Hadza?” asks Mangola. “It would bring meaning and excitement to the community,” he says.

Some scientists have talked about the Hadza as if they were living fossils, says Alyssa Crittenden, a nutritional anthropologist and biologist at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, who has been studying and working with the Hadza for the last two decades.

The Hadza have been described as being “locked in time,” she adds, but characterizations like that don’t reflect reality. She has made many trips to Tanzania and seen for herself how life has changed. Tourists flock to the region. Roads have been built. Charities have helped the Hadza secure land rights. Mangola went abroad for his education: he has a law degree and a master’s from the Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy program at the University of Arizona.

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The Download: a microbiome gold rush, and Eric Schmidt’s election misinformation plan

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The Download: a microbiome gold rush, and Eric Schmidt’s election misinformation plan


Over the last couple of decades, scientists have come to realize just how important the microbes that crawl all over us are to our health. But some believe our microbiomes are in crisis—casualties of an increasingly sanitized way of life. Disturbances in the collections of microbes we host have been associated with a whole host of diseases, ranging from arthritis to Alzheimer’s.

Some might not be completely gone, though. Scientists believe many might still be hiding inside the intestines of people who don’t live in the polluted, processed environment that most of the rest of us share. They’ve been studying the feces of people like the Yanomami, an Indigenous group in the Amazon, who appear to still have some of the microbes that other people have lost. 

But there is a major catch: we don’t know whether those in hunter-gatherer societies really do have “healthier” microbiomes—and if they do, whether the benefits could be shared with others. At the same time, members of the communities being studied are concerned about the risk of what’s called biopiracy—taking natural resources from poorer countries for the benefit of wealthier ones. Read the full story.

—Jessica Hamzelou

Eric Schmidt has a 6-point plan for fighting election misinformation

—by Eric Schmidt, formerly the CEO of Google, and current cofounder of philanthropic initiative Schmidt Futures

The coming year will be one of seismic political shifts. Over 4 billion people will head to the polls in countries including the United States, Taiwan, India, and Indonesia, making 2024 the biggest election year in history.

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Navigating a shifting customer-engagement landscape with generative AI

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Navigating a shifting customer-engagement landscape with generative AI


A strategic imperative

Generative AI’s ability to harness customer data in a highly sophisticated manner means enterprises are accelerating plans to invest in and leverage the technology’s capabilities. In a study titled “The Future of Enterprise Data & AI,” Corinium Intelligence and WNS Triange surveyed 100 global C-suite leaders and decision-makers specializing in AI, analytics, and data. Seventy-six percent of the respondents said that their organizations are already using or planning to use generative AI.

According to McKinsey, while generative AI will affect most business functions, “four of them will likely account for 75% of the total annual value it can deliver.” Among these are marketing and sales and customer operations. Yet, despite the technology’s benefits, many leaders are unsure about the right approach to take and mindful of the risks associated with large investments.

Mapping out a generative AI pathway

One of the first challenges organizations need to overcome is senior leadership alignment. “You need the necessary strategy; you need the ability to have the necessary buy-in of people,” says Ayer. “You need to make sure that you’ve got the right use case and business case for each one of them.” In other words, a clearly defined roadmap and precise business objectives are as crucial as understanding whether a process is amenable to the use of generative AI.

The implementation of a generative AI strategy can take time. According to Ayer, business leaders should maintain a realistic perspective on the duration required for formulating a strategy, conduct necessary training across various teams and functions, and identify the areas of value addition. And for any generative AI deployment to work seamlessly, the right data ecosystems must be in place.

Ayer cites WNS Triange’s collaboration with an insurer to create a claims process by leveraging generative AI. Thanks to the new technology, the insurer can immediately assess the severity of a vehicle’s damage from an accident and make a claims recommendation based on the unstructured data provided by the client. “Because this can be immediately assessed by a surveyor and they can reach a recommendation quickly, this instantly improves the insurer’s ability to satisfy their policyholders and reduce the claims processing time,” Ayer explains.

All that, however, would not be possible without data on past claims history, repair costs, transaction data, and other necessary data sets to extract clear value from generative AI analysis. “Be very clear about data sufficiency. Don’t jump into a program where eventually you realize you don’t have the necessary data,” Ayer says.

The benefits of third-party experience

Enterprises are increasingly aware that they must embrace generative AI, but knowing where to begin is another thing. “You start off wanting to make sure you don’t repeat mistakes other people have made,” says Ayer. An external provider can help organizations avoid those mistakes and leverage best practices and frameworks for testing and defining explainability and benchmarks for return on investment (ROI).

Using pre-built solutions by external partners can expedite time to market and increase a generative AI program’s value. These solutions can harness pre-built industry-specific generative AI platforms to accelerate deployment. “Generative AI programs can be extremely complicated,” Ayer points out. “There are a lot of infrastructure requirements, touch points with customers, and internal regulations. Organizations will also have to consider using pre-built solutions to accelerate speed to value. Third-party service providers bring the expertise of having an integrated approach to all these elements.”

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