Applying 5G technology to healthcare

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Venturus, since its foundation, has always worked with partners in the telephony area. One of the oldest customers we have in this area is Ericsson, which is one of the largest companies in the industry. In addition to the knowledge we have in the area, we also have an ISO 17025 certified laboratory for 3G and 4G network simulation, which is used by customers for various tasks involving the use of these networks.    

For these reasons, we are very interested in learning more about the new generation of mobile phone technology, 5G. Less than two months ago, Unicamp Professor Doctor Gustavo Fraidenraich was invited to give a lecture on 5G technology at our company. This talk discussed the new technology that is coming to Brazil, emphasizing its main technological challenges. With this introduction, I, as a solution developer, could get an idea of what benefits and applications could be developed with the arrival of 5G technology.  

As I watched the lecture, I remembered my college days, when cell phones were the big thing. At that time, having a cell line was for the lucky few who had won the lottery of cellphone lines. As the new technology arrived, many doubts began to arise regarding the risks of “pollution” that could be caused by the electromagnetic waves emitted by the devices and their base radio stations.   

Thinking about all this, and aligning with my interests in healthcare, I decided to write this article, where I plan to talk a little about what is a 5G network and what its healthcare benefits will be and discuss concerns about the impacts of electromagnetic radiation derived from telephony networks on our lives 

What is 5G?  

5G is the new generation of mobile telephony (which is funny because, today, nobody uses the phone to transmit voice but to transmit data). This new technology has brought higher communication speed: compared to the current 4G network, it should be up to 100 times faster. It will have a latency of no more than 10ms and dividable into different bands, allowing services to have exclusive bands. What’s more, the 5G network will be much more stable and secure than today’s networks and will allow a larger number of devices to be connected 

Why can’t this be done with today’s mobile networks, though? Mainly, because of the frequency range with which they operate. 5G technology will use very high frequency bands of electromagnetic waves, somewhere above 6 GHz, in addition to some bands of previous technologies.   

For the deployment of this new network, the number of antennas to be installed is much larger than current technologies, because high frequency waves have a shorter range and are very susceptible to obstacles such as buildings.  

And what will 5G add to the healthcare area?  

As download and upload speeds will be faster, you will be able to upload high quality digital content faster and in real time. This will enable several applications in healthcare, such as high-resolution imaging sending, the possibility of doctors performing remote surgical procedures with the help of robot doctors, as well as the use of tools as a virtual reality in treatments and training.  

If we consider that the new technology will make it possible to include multiple devices in the network, remote patient monitoring is possible through the use of wearable devices (implantable medical devices) and internal or external remote sensing and monitoring devices. Thus, it would be possible for a patient to continue their recovery at home, being assisted in the same way as if they were in a hospital.  

And, of course, since network coverage should be higher, remote service reach capability will be greater as well.  

And is there danger in 5G technology 

As I said in the introduction to this article, the concern about the impact of radiation on health has been around since the creation of mobile telephony. Therefore, there are entities such as ICNIRP6 (International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection), that are designed to study and evaluate the possible damage that electromagnetic waves may cause to humans. This entity not only researches mobile telephony radiation, but, also, all the waves that surround us (such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, radio and television). This committee proposed standards and rules for using frequency bands to minimize potential health impacts. This commission has published several surveys showing that the health risks assessed are still negligible, since, once emitted, the waves follow the power limits of electromagnetic waves established in international standards.  

We can conclude that 5G technology has a lot to contribute to and transform in healthcare. With it, we can have improvements from access to examinations and evaluations to lessening the load of hospitals, since many patients can be evaluated, monitored and treated remotely. The technology should not pose any health risks, as there are specialized agencies to monitor its effects on the environment. 

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