Telecoms giant Vodafone has launched its 5G network in seven cities across the UK earlier today, switched on by five-time Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton in London.
From expanding virtual reality training to telemedicine or remote monitoring, experts say 5G will accelerate adoption and stimulate innovation in healthcare in the coming years.
WHY IT MATTERS
“Everyone talks about speed and latency, critical capabilities within the 5G environment,” Vodafone UK chief technology officer Scott Petty, said at today's event. “Yes, 5G today will be ten times faster than 4G. Over the next couple of years, as we harness new features and new capabilities, it will get even faster.”
But 5G is about more than that, Petty explained. “I’m very confident over the next few years we’ll see more ‘things’ connected to our network than smartphones. That will enable a set of new services that some of us can’t even imagine today, in the same way that the smartphone enabled a whole set of new applications in 2007 that people couldn’t dream of back then but couldn’t live without today,” Petty said.
At the Mobile World Congress in February, with Vodafone’s 5G network, gastrointestinal surgeon Antonio de Lacy guided a surgery that was being performed miles away at the Barcelona Hospital Clínic in the Óptimus operating theatre, described as one of the most advanced in the world, by using a solution called Telestration from AIS Channel.
“This can fundamentally change the way we deliver health services,” Petty said.
Professor Shafi Ahmed, chief medical officer at Medical Realities, told MobiHealthNews: “In 2001, the first successful remote gallbladder surgery, the so called Lindbergh Operation, was carried out by surgeons in New York with the patient in Strasbourg, France.
“Eighteen years later and with the advent of high speed 5G low latency, the first remote robotic operation was carried out in Fujian, China. 5G has great potential for surgeons across the world to offer remote teaching, in addition to being able to operate or assist in surgeries carried out across the world.”
THE LARGER TREND
In partnership with Imperial College London, the Vodafone Foundation launched last year an app called DreamLab to accelerate cancer research.
The aim is to create a “virtual supercomputer out of tens of thousands of smartphones” while they are dormant or charging overnight, Dr Kirill Veselkov, from Imperial's Department of Surgery & Cancer, told MobiHealthNews. It uses the processing power of phones to analyse data in less time than it would take a supercomputer and at less cost.
“DreamLab is letting us learn new things all the time. With over 10 million calculations so far, researchers at Imperial have been able to analyse thousands of drugs which are already in the market to predict which ones have anti-cancer properties,” Helen Lamprell, general counsel and director of external affairs at Vodafone UK, explained.
An example is the Metformin drug used to treat Type 2 diabetes, as well as Rosoxacin, which is used to treat bacterial infections. “Because these drugs have already been in therapeutic use, their approval carries far fewer risks, substantially lower costs, and shorter timelines than developing completely new drugs. And that’s great news for the NHS and for all of us,” Lamprell added.
The same approach was applied by the team at Imperial to find “drug-like molecules in food”, Lamprell said. “Their novel approach, powered by DreamLab, has made it possible to examine cancer-beating food molecules on an unprecedented scale.
“To put it in perspective, with current experimental methods, it would take months to investigate just one single drug or food molecule. So I am hugely pleased to tell you that this work by DreamLab has enabled the team to identify 110 cancer-beating molecules in every day food,” she explained.
The research was published today in Nature Scientific Reports.
ON THE RECORD
Lewis Hamilton at today's launch event in London; credit: Vodafone UK
Vodafone's network has now been launched, along with London, in Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool, Manchester, Cardiff and Glasgow, and the company also unveiled today new plans for businesses and an upcoming digital marketplace.
The event in London also saw the UK’s first haptic transfer via 5G, with the impact of a rugby tackle made by Wasps player Will Rowlands in Coventry transferred to teammate Juan de Jongh at the event in London, who was wearing a specially developed haptic suit.
In a statement, Anne Sheehan, Vodafone UK business director, said: “5G is a game-changer for the economy and UK businesses. We are committed to helping our customers take advantage of this technology by making it widely available in the UK and through roaming. We want to help UK businesses become global leaders and 5G will play an important role in achieving that aim.”