Professor Mischa Dohler introduces the Tactile Internet, and how in concert with the Internet of Things, it may yet again redefine the way we work, rest and play.
Each Internet generation was believed to be the last, with designs pushed to near perfection. The first and original Internet, a virtually infinite network of computers, was a paradigm changer and went on to define the economies of the late 20th century. However, after that Internet came the Mobile Internet, connecting billions of smart phones and laptops, and yet again redefining entire segments of the economy in the first decade of the 21st century. Today, we witness the emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT), shortly to connect trillions of objects and starting to redefine yet again various economies of this decade. Is that it? Surely, so we argue, there is something much, much bigger at stake still.
These different embodiments of the Internet will be dwarfed by the emergence of the Tactile Internet which we believe is a true paradigm shift, in which sufficiently responsive, reliable network connectivity and advanced edge-haptics will enable it to deliver physical, tactile experiences remotely. Imagine our best surgeons performing operations remotely; our best engineers maintaining cars on the other side of the planet; somebody teaching me how to paint or me teaching somebody how to play the piano.
Substantial innovation efforts are ongoing to design and connect the Tactile Internet with the traditional wired Internet, the Mobile Internet and the Internet of Things – thereby forming an Internet of entirely new dimensions and capabilities. In contrast to the prior Internets which enabled content delivery, this Internet will be an enabler for skillset delivery and therefore pave way for an unprecedented “Internet of Skills”. It is a very timely development for service and skillset driven economies around the globe, and help in democratizing labour and wealth globally.
Because the Internet of Skills will be servicing really critical aspects of society, the underlying Tactile Internet will need to be ultra-reliable, maybe a second of outage per year, support very low latency and short end-to-end delays in the order of milliseconds – and have sufficient capacity to allow large numbers of devices to communicate with each other simultaneously and autonomously. It will be able to interconnect with the traditional wired internet, the mobile internet and the internet of things – thereby forming an internet of entirely new dimensions and capabilities.
We imagine the Internet of Skills will, in the business-to-business ecosystem, drive markets for autonomous cars, remote medical care markets, energy resource extraction and power generation, and other challenging industries. For consumers, it will revolutionize the way we teach, learn, and interact with our surroundings. A preliminary market analysis has revealed that the potential market could extend to US$20 trillion worldwide – around 20% of today’s worldwide GDP.
At the edges, the Tactile Internet will be enabled by the Internet of Things and actuating robots. Content and skillset data will be transmitted over a significantly more powerful 5G core network as well as the next generation Internet. The finite speed of light, however, will require a lot of the cloud intelligence to be enabled close at the edge, close to the tactile experience. These technical breakthroughs are currently being investigated at the King’s College London “5G Tactile Internet Lab”.