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How 5G Technologies will Revolutionize Communication and Commerce

The fifth generation of our global wireless network will transform the speed, consistency and availability of data and communication. Information will move faster and with more accuracy than ever before, but will you and your business be ready to capitalize on the change? In this episode, Anish Bhimani is joined by JPMorgan Chase’s Marco Pistoia for a conversation on the emergence of 5G and the impacts it’ll have on our global landscape. If there’s a specific topic you’d like us to cover, email us at: tech.trends@jpmchase.com.

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(bright upbeat music)

Anish Bhimani:

Welcome to TechTrends. TechTrends is a podcast series that provides perspective and the latest trends in technology, FinTech, and digital. On today's episode, we're going to talk about the emergence of 5G technologies, what it is, how it works, when it's coming, and how it has the potential  to fundamentally change business and open up new markets. I'm Anish Bhimani, Chief Information Officer, Commercial Banking at JPMorgan Chase. And joining me today is Marco Pistoia, Director of FLARE, the Future Lab for Applied Research and Engineering at JPMorgan Chase and Company. Marco, welcome to TechTrends.

Marco Pistoia:

Thank you. Thank you very much, Anish.

Anish Bhimani:

Marco, everywhere we look, we're reminded of the power of 5G and how it's going to transform the world for the people that aren't familiar with it. Can you explain what it is and how it works?

Marco Pistoia:

Sure, yes. 5G is the fifth-generation mobile network. That's what the G stands for: generation. It's a new global wireless standard. We had seen 1G, 2G, 3G, and 4G; we now are at the fifth generation. Technically speaking, what 5G is based on is very short wavelengths and very high frequency. But what did this translates into is a lot of data can be transmitted over shorter distances with respect to 4G. So we are going to have a lot of data, but shorter distances.

 

So a lot of the new technologies can leverage these amount of data that can be transmitted. We have speed, we have consistency, we have high availability, and we have low latency. So the delay is very short, the delay of communication. The shorter distances are going to be a problem that is been taken care of, because of course 5G providers need to install more towers to cover the regions and so on. So 4G is powerful, but it has almost reached like saturation. That's why 5G is now coming into place and it's bringing multi gigabits per second of communication, very low latency, more reliability, massive network capacity, increased availability. And of course, the ability of many devices, we're talking about billions of devices to be connected at the same time. We're not talking just about mobile devices, like our cell phones or our tablets, but we're talking about IOT (Internet of Things) devices.

Anish Bhimani:

So you mentioned before that we've been on a journey here, it's a fifth generation. Can you walk us through a little bit of the history from 1G up to 5G?

Marco Pistoia:

Sure, yes. It's almost like interesting to see that each one of these technology lasted for about 10 years, like a decade each. So 1G in fact, it was introduced in 1979 and it lasted until about 1990, so about 11 years. And of course, nothing really ends exactly. Like for example, even 4G didn't end today, like there's always an overlap. So 1G like a, it's almost like a prehistory. (chuckles) It only had the 24 kilobits per second, the signal was analog and it pretty much supported only voice, you could only make phone calls. Then 2G was introduced at the beginning of the '90s and it covered the whole decades. And here we actually jumped the to 64 kilobits per second, and the signal was finally digital and it supported also text messages. 3G that's what actually came in the year 2000 and lasted for another decades, here we're talking about 144 kilobits per second. And like, as things evolved, we even reached like a two megabits per second with the 3G, there was support for video calls, IP telephony, mobile web access and so on.

 

Now, 4G is the one that we have all been using in the last decade from 2010, until 2020. We can go from a hundred megabit per second to 1 gigabit per second. And with 4G, we have seen, not only of course, voice calls, telephone calls and text messages, but also mobile multimedia, higher security, better battery usage. And so finally we are in the area of 5G. Now we're talking about tens of gigabits per second. Another thing to note, this is the latency, so the delay in which data is received, this is crucial when using technologies with like mobile devices and sensors. So in 3G, the latency was a hundred milliseconds and now with 5G, it's one millisecond. So it's really real time. Like the delay is totally unnoticeable. And with 5G, we can actually have like an incredible range of new technologies enabled, like smarter CDs, smarter tools, smarter offices, smarter cars and so on. Everything is thanks to this new technology.

Anish Bhimani:

So it's interesting, if you think about that, each one of those generations sort of enabled a new capability or a new method of communication, right. 2G really is what made cell phones ubiquitous around the world, right? If you think about a 3G is what started making mobile browsing, ubiquitous around the world. 4G started to make video calls, ubiquitous around the world. How do we think about 5G, how it's already changed things and what it means for businesses and consumers?

Marco Pistoia:

Exactly, so with 5G, I think things go beyond smartphones and tablets. With 5G the new thing is IOT (Internet of Things). So the idea that billions of smart devices, as smart sensors are now connected to the network and they're integrated with each other, interacting in real time, there is so much that can be done with this power at this point, it's particularly in the area of AI beyond, augmented reality and virtual reality. We can now see how it's possible. For example, even for a bank like a JPMorgan Chase, but for many other industries to take advantage of 5G, to do a remote learning, remote meeting, remote assistance of customers, remote onboarding of new employees and the with IOT, you can actually have better working environments like the offices where we work everyday can now become smart offices.

 

And some of these things already existed, but with 5G, they can become much more powerful. You can have like sensors and cameras, computing, how many people are in each environment. If there is any emergency people can be routed not only to the closest exit, but to the safest exit. And if that becomes overly crowded, then the IOT system can route people to the second closest, and safest exit that is not so crowded as the first one. So there are still so many capabilities, so many new advantages that can take place. Also, for example, in the automotive industry we have now self-driving cars, but with 5G, there is an expectation that like as marked points of contact can be installed in petro stations or even like where there is a stoplight at that point, cars can load the massive amount of data or the cars can communicate with each other. So that for example, every car can communicate with the car ahead of itself and then recursively, every car can do that. So that there is almost like a domino effect in a positive way, if there is any emergency, all the cars can communicate back to their car coming behind so that there is much more safety and security for the people who are driving or being driven by these smart cars.

Anish Bhimani:

So basically what you're describing is a much more highly networked world, right? Where, you can get a lot more data from sensors and make decisions about that, feeding things like machine learning algorithms, other things like that, but you can also transmit data to a lot more places to enable remote devices or autonomous vehicles to sort of make decisions and act on that data. Right, which opens up a lot of opportunities.

Marco Pistoia:

Yes Anish, I agree with you. This is like a total, like a revolutionary time, basically in the history of mobile communications, there are so many new opportunities, not only for like end users having like their cell phones, but for businesses to take advantage of this new technology that allows for real time communication and integration of new device.

Anish Bhimani:

Yeah, there's a lot of people that have made the analogy that 4G was about ubiquitously enabling consumer applications. So things like, whether for us does online banking or mobile banking, excuse me, or mobile entertainment or things like that. And what 4G did to consumers, 5G is going to do to corporates, right? There's a lot of people that say, could take the place of wired networks. You could, it opens a lot of opportunities with the real estate and the things like that as well. Can you talk about what kind of opportunities, like you were saying before that 5G does create for corporates and maybe what the next five years might look like?

Marco Pistoia:

Absolutely, so first of all, I think in the space of AR VR, this technology literally requires very reliable and fast networks with very high availability. So we don't expect of course, to be in an AR VR environment and have a disruption. AR VR can be used to save massive amounts of money in terms of, for example, saving on travel expenses. You can have support people, for example, supporting your customers or your employees sitting in another country and serving the teams in remote locations as well. You can have remote classes, but not like just using like a meeting or something that it can be like an embedded experience in which you really feel like you are in a classroom with your teachers, you have a whiteboard, and it's exactly like being in a school in person.

 

So all these things are going to revolutionize, like the way business is done. The most important thing to notice is that with the 5G, AR, VR, and IOT, are going to change the way we work on a daily basis in our offices. And it's going to revolutionize the way in which we interact with our customers. It's like, I think 5G, as you mentioned before, that's the difference between 5G and 4G. 4G was mostly for consumers and 5G is for consumers and for businesses, it's going to be a total change of experience. And fortunately, I think it will also cause, it will also generate savings because we are not going to have to travel so often anymore.

Anish Bhimani:

Yeah, let's sort of change directions a little bit. So 5G obviously is a very forward-looking kind of a technology. You lead FLARE for JPMorgan Chase, as I said, the Future Lab for Applied Research and Engineering and bringing I think a new perspective to banking as I recall. I think when we were speaking, I think you have over 200 patents. So you clearly have a view on what's coming in the future. Tell us a little bit about the FLARE program and what it means.

Marco Pistoia:

Yes Anish, as you mentioned, FLARE is the Future Lab for Applied Research and Engineering at JPMorgan Chase, and the A in FLARE stands for applied, which means our research is totally driven by the business use cases of the firm. We don't do anything unless it's necessary for JPMorgan Chase to solve problems that our partners in the bank have not been able to solve yet.

 

We're also collaborating with universities and with other partners in the industry, because we want our research to be totally aligned with the state of the art of the scientific field. In FLARE we already have five projects, all were forward-looking, all frontier technologies. We have service mesh for example, which is a technology in cloud networking that supports hybrid cloud environments. We have confidential computing, which increases the level of security of data, security and privacy of data in clouds. And then we have quantum computing. Quantum is really like a revolutionary technology. Quantum computers promise to beat classical computers in everything that we do in our daily life. So with quantum computers, we would be able to solve problems that are not solvable today. The only challenge with the quantum computing is that it will also break today's cryptography. So we're working also towards alternative forms of encryption that are quantum resistant. And then we have two projects that are really close to 5G, and these are IOT (Internet of Things) and the AR VR. So with these two projects as I mentioned, we really want to change the way we interact with our customers and the way we work on a daily basis. And that's where 5G really plays a crucial role.

Anish Bhimani:

So the type of work that you're thinking about with 5G, talk a little bit more about the Internet of Things. And the other term that gets thrown around a lot is Edge Computing, which a lot of our listeners may not quite understand they've heard it, but how does that relate to what we're talking about today?

Marco Pistoia:

For IOT, it's very important that our new business environments, so the way we interact with our customers, the way our offices are equipped, allow us to really work in smarter business environments. So there are so many things that a 5G enabled office So there are so many things that a 5G enabled office can do for us. For example, safety, like having sensors detecting when situations like all the people suddenly migrate from one area of the building to another, or as everybody knows that even the problem of redirecting people towards security exits and so on. Then we have the issue of Edge Computing. This is really important, so Edge Computing is basically like a combination of several Artificial Intelligence technologies that happened like in a decentralized way. So for example, like at JPMorgan Chase, we have branches all over the place. It's important that a lot of the Artificial Intelligence takes place right there at the branch, as opposed to in a centralized location where all the computations have to take place.

 

So there are two advantages that we can see when we do Edge Computing. One is that, of course we can avoid the latency caused by the data transitioning back and forth. We can actually perform Artificial Intelligence right there at the location. And the other is that we avoid basically over overly loading, like a central computer with all these data going back and forth and all the computation that needs to take place. So with 5G technology, some of these can be streamlined in a sense it's possible now to even afford the more communication between the edge location and the central location, because the technology is there, the bandwidth is there, the latency is decreased. And so 5G allows for better alignments of the Artificial Intelligence taking place on the edge with the central location, that of course has more data coming from other branches, other places and everything can be integrated in a better way.

Anish Bhimani:

Yeah, that's interesting. It feels like every decade or so, we're going through a little bit of a pendulum swing, right? So go back 50 years ago and we had a... when computing power was very expensive and we had mainframe centric computing and timeshare and other things like that. And at the edge, you just had a terminal that was a dumb terminal that just send instructions back and forth and then we migrated a client server was PCs became much more ubiquitous and powerful. And there was a lot more being done locally. And then as the internet took off, we moved back towards the web and cloud-based model where all of the computing was centralized. And now as networking gets so powerful, we're moving back to be able to do a lot more on the desk, but each of those builds on the other and it just enables lot more powerful applications, it sounds like.

Marco Pistoia:

Absolutely, so there is no such a thing as a 5G eliminating the need for Edge Computing but in reality, just argumenting the potential of Edge Computing because of course, like a central location has more data. So it's important to synchronize what's happening at the edge with the central knowledge. So 5G allows for faster synchronization and most frequent desynchronization, but we definitely want to continue to work on the Edge Computing technologies.

Anish Bhimani:

Marco, we've been hearing about 5G for awhile and it's only recently that it's starting to become more of a reality. So I think it was in September and October of 2020 that Apple, Samsung, other folks have started announcing the availability to 5G devices and a lot of the network providers, advertising the availability to 5G. So is 5G really here, or when is it going to be available more broadly, not just in big cities, but as you said 5G is dependent on much more towers being placed. How far are we from that becoming a reality and ubiquitous?

Marco Pistoia:

So this is actually a very good question because that's what everybody wants to know. So first of all, I would like to say more transmitters are needed because as I mentioned, 5G is a very powerful technology, but the radius of communication is much shorter than it is in 4G. So in order to cover a region, we need to have more transmitters. And so like providers are now working towards building new towers and they're trying to cover as much as possible and make sure that this technology is actually available.

 

And of course there is another challenge and we need also more 5G enabled devices. So that's the other side of the coin, we need the infrastructure on one side and on the other side, we need the devices that need to be 5G enabled. We just know, for example, that Apple only in October of 2020 released iPhones that are 5G enabled. So this shows already that the technology is there, but not fully there. It will take probably like another couple of years before we actually see a massive impact for the 5G technologies. This delay, however, has a little bit of like a positive connotation, like a positive consequence. And it is the fact that this low roll-outs is also allowing companies to do things right, especially from the point of view of security. So that's a very important consideration to make, we need to secure devices. So there's a lot of rollout is allowing providers to address the security concerns that 5G is exposing right now.

Anish Bhimani:

So let's touch on that. There's a lot of concerns and in some cases myths out there about 5G and let's talk through those sort of one by one. So the first thing I wanna talk about is people think that there are health hazards associated with 5G, and the microwaves flying through the air and other things like that can you comment on that?

Marco Pistoia:

Sure, like that's a lot of discussion has happened around this topic. So the scientific consensus is that 5G technology is safe. I think a misunderstanding of the 5G technology has caused like all these conspiracy theories claiming that it can have adverse effects on human health, but a lot of studies have already been done and it has been proven that the radiations emitted by 5G devices and towers are really value similar to what happens in the previous technologies like 4G and 3G. So there is probably really no health issue. There was even a conspiracy theory that has gone around Europe in the past few months, saying that COVID-19 was a consequence of 5G technology. Of course it is most totally false, there is no foundation for this claim. So I don't think there is any a concern for health according to like medical studies that have been conducted.

Anish Bhimani:

Alright, next let's move into something that is a real concern that needs to be addressed is what are the security implications of 5G, right. Especially as we talk about the Internet of Things and so many more devices out there, what does this mean for the security model that we have today and how should companies think about it differently?

Marco Pistoia:

Yeah, security is actually a real concern. So as always like any new technology, I just mentioned before quantum computing is a technology that has security concerns, is causing security concerns. Cloud computing opened up a new security problems to address and that's why we're working on confidential computing for example, in FLARE. When it comes to 5G, as I mentioned, these security concerns might have a credible foundation. And the number one concern is that the rapid growth in the number of IT devices connected to 5G, to 5G networks is increasing the chances of a distributed denial of service attacks. So we are talking about billions of devices, all of a sudden being connected, interconnected with each other. So it's likely, unless things are done properly, it's likely that attackers might exploit this situation and inject into the natural devices that saturate the network with high demand causing other devices to become idle and to be prevent it from connecting properly. This is a distributed denial of service attack.

 

So the other concern is that not all manufacturers are prioritizing cybersecurity. We have like really many low-end the smart devices, like billions of devices that are connected. And each one of them is a possible breach points. So we know that security, this is like a very famous saying security is like a chain and the strength of this chain is as much as the strength of the weakest link, the chain. So now that we have, for example, let's take a smart home with the smart TVs, door locks, smart refrigerators, smart speakers and even at the moment for a fish tank, all these things become like connected with each other. A vulnerability in one of these devices can actually cause a vulnerability in the entire home. And the same thing of course applies to an office. Another concern from a security point of view is that, of course, all these networks require constant monitoring, but the fact that there is now so much bandwidth and so much like so many devices connected at the same time and very low latency, which are all great things, but this is now causing like a strain on the security monitoring.

 

And there is one more thing that is a concern and that should be addressed. So 5G actually has done a lot, like in terms of security, for example, there are high encryption standards involved in a 5G communications but at the same time, there is some information that is communicated in the clear, For example the device type and in some cases, the device location. So attackers might exploit this non-encrypted information that is communicated in a clear to refine their attacks. Or in some cases, once you have enough of this data, you might even identify who the owner of the device is. So these are confidentiality violations, and these are really important things to address.

Anish Bhimani:

There was a lot in there. And if I were to recap a lot of that for our listeners, like you could think about, security always needs to evolve the way that attacker always evolve with every new technology out there. Again, let's go back 30 years and viruses were always a thing. And then as computers became networked, you didn't have to pass it on a disk. You could pass it through email or on a web link or things like that as well. And it became that much more important for applications and systems to address vulnerabilities during the point of design, as opposed to remediating them after the fact, right and other things like that.

 

And 5G probably basically is, I think what you're saying is that all of a sudden now that point of vulnerability is not just a web application or a website that gets tons of attention and lots of design work and security architecture and everything else like that. But rather all of these IOT devices and it's accumbent upon the manufacturers to ensure that they are building security in upfront and that they're using things like trusted hardware and competence computing, you mentioned things like that, to ensure that's right. But I think it's fair that companies need to be aware that each of those IOT devices, does create another vector for entrance of vulnerabilities and we need to be aware of that. Is that fair?

Marco Pistoia:

Absolutely, you're right Anish. Like security is one of those disciplines that cannot be considered as an after thought, it should be taken care of at the design time as you mentioned.

Anish Bhimani:

Yup, the last thing I wanna talk about, which is a concern for a lot of people is data privacy. And obviously with the growth and things like Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, Biometrics, etc, there's a lot more data available on individuals, on companies and the things like that. How should people think about the impact on privacy that 5G is going to have?

Marco Pistoia:

So 5G is only going to make things worse in a sense, so we already have privacy concerns today with 4G or even with wired networks. But with 5G, because of the ability of 5G to connect many more devices, we're talking about billions of devices, the risks of a privacy violations are becoming much higher. The fact that cars will be able to communicate with each other, for example, like the position of cars will be tracked. Everything is like going to become like a massive explosion of data and data storage. So I think it's very important to make sure that each company takes confidentiality very seriously.

 

And again, the security cannot be considered an after thought and confidentiality is a branch of security. So it's important to make sure that data is anonymized in a way that it can still be useful. Because the reason why data is stored is most of the times to do Artificial Intelligence on the data. So data has to be anonymized in a way that it is still useful, but not enough to violate confidentiality and privacy. And most of the times, of course, the data has to be encrypted and JPMorgan Chase we're working also in collaboration with the AI research team led by Manuela Veloso on homomorphic encryption, which allows operations to take place. For example, Artificial Intelligence, to take place on encrypted data. The data doesn't even need to be decrypted, and you can still infer useful information from the encrypted data without violating confidentiality. So we want to be at the leading edge when it comes to confidentiality and privacy, because these are important requirements that we want to enforce for our employees, but also for our customers.

Anish Bhimani:

So, a lot to think about here, right? And yeah, there's some risks, right? But overall, the opportunity, more than significantly outweighs the risks and the risks all seem manageable from that point of view, we have to address those, right. But what should be top of mind, both for technologists and business owners in terms of what 5G can do for them.

Marco Pistoia:

Anish, I totally agree with you that when it comes to new technology, there is always like risks and uncertainties but that doesn't mean of course, abandoned our effort to evolve. Technology is evolving, we shouldn't stop it, we should just make sure of course that the risks are taken care of. So we talked about 1G, 2G, 3G, 4G and the 5G in my opinion, is the most revolutionary of all the standards so far. So to answer your question about what technologists and business owners should do, I believe that it's very important that they embrace this new technology now, because not doing that now might cause a business to fall behind. I don't mean to say that we are too late, if somebody hasn't yet embraced the 5G, it's late, it's not too late.

 

We were talking about, everything being rolled out right now. I mentioned that, say, if we see Apple, they recently just released the new phone, so we're not late, but it has to be done now because every business should become a 5G ready at this point. And for example, business owners should consider equipping their working environments say businesses or schools with the 5G enabled sensors and devices. And investing in 5G technologies now, it's I think very important. Let's take AR VR, AR VR will allow so much better interactions with customers, even better interactions among employees. Companies can save money on their travel expenses and so on. So this is the time, it's important that when these revolutionary technologies appear, it's important to embrace them as soon as possible and not fall behind.

Anish Bhimani:

So the same way that companies first had to adapt to the internet and then to mobile, this is sort of that next sort of wave to think about, right? And it sounds like what you're saying is whether or not a company is going to be an early adopter of 5G, Internet of Things, Edge Computing, other things like that, etc. Well again, whether or not you're going to adopt it now, the time to plan is now, right. And think about what it's going to do to your industry and how you wanna react to that and get sort of your plans in place now. Is that fair?

Marco Pistoia:

Absolutely, I totally agree, this is exactly the message that I wanted to convey. It's not too late, but it has to be done now, getting ready and embracing the technology. Anish Bhimani:Marco, thanks so much for joining us today and thanks for your insights on this incredibly important topic.

Marco Pistoia:

Thank you Anish, it was really my pleasure.

Anish Bhimani:

And to all of our listeners, remember, if you enjoyed today's episode, you can rate us on Apple podcast, Spotify, or wherever you listen. Tune in next time.

(bright upbeat music)

END

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