It’s a no-brainer that 5G and the tech world are intertwined. Pushing and pulling each other to new places and heights, making each other innovate, and in turn, reaping the benefits of one another’s advancements in the process. It is also true that this world can be filled with plenty of trends, technical concepts, and interesting headlines. By now, you’ve probably seen “NFT” floating around. For those that don’t, we’ll explain below. Whether it’s on Instagram, a news article, or even an S.N.L. comedy sketch, NFTs aren’t exactly “new”, but they are having their break-out moment in 2021.
NFTs are an interesting concept and there is plenty of space for it in the world of 5G. In fact, 5G is going to power many of the cool aspects where NFTs can grow and provide more value to their users than just what may seem like a silly image or GIF on your social pages. They have huge potential, as does anything blockchain-related, and look to be an emerging market that consumers have an interest in, even if we are still too early to fully understand how much. There’s a lot to unpack, but it doesn’t have to be super-techy mumbo-jumbo. Let’s examine the world of NFTs and how 5G is making it a larger one.
So, it only feels natural that we unpack what an NFT is and please understand, there are plenty of technical aspects that go into this, and we’ll explore some, but this is not a deep dive into the technical world of blockchain.
NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, are basically collectibles that live on blockchains as a piece of data that are unique to themselves. Essentially, it’s like owning a collectable that lives on the Internet. Think of it as owning a Picasso painting. Sure, anyone can take a picture of the painting, some may even be capable of recreating the painting to a certain level of impressive replication, but no one will ever be capable of recreating, duplicating, or copying the exact piece by Picasso himself.
This is what makes NFTs so interesting because not only do you gain possession of a digital item, but you’ll also have proof that it is yours and any past and future transactions that come along with it. NFTs are purchased by cryptocurrency or traditional currency. Ethereum (ETH) is a popular crypto being used on blockchains within the NFT art world for example, and the data of the NFT and the currency being exchanged on blockchains is recorded via a digital ledger that can prove ownership and the history of transactions. Some popular examples of NFTs are:
- Digital artwork
- Digital cards
- Items in video games
- Sports Highlights
This may still feel like nonsense to you, but these collectibles are no joke, bringing in some serious cash. A notable auction held by the popular digital artist Beeple skyrocketed him into millionaire status when his NFT auction brought in over $60 million worth of cryptocurrency for his work, but these transactions are also only the tip of the iceberg as to where NFTs will go.
Purchasing a $5 outfit to wear on a video game might not sound like a great time for many but there are still plenty of games thriving off of in-game purchases. Look at the incredible money brought in by EA through its Ultimate Team features which allow players to buy packs of virtual cards to unlock players for their team. A better example would be the success of Fortnite, a completely free game from Epic Games, now worth well over $17 billion due to in-game purchases. There’s only so much value one can have when you can enjoy your purchase in a single game or event, but what happens when you can take those purchases throughout the Internet wherever you are? NFTs are providing that possibility.
The crazy part is that it is just some of the entertainment aspects for NFT. There are plenty enough reasons to get excited about that, however, the applications of NFTs in various industries such as automation, manufacturing, and software provide a much farther depth of possibility. A lot of this is exactly why 5G is tied into the future of NFTs and blockchains going forward. To understand this concept more, we have to explore the Internet of Things (IoT).
IoT and the M2M Economy
The IoT brings plenty of new possibilities to the way we conduct our lives. For an in-depth look at the IoT, you can understand more here, but the basics are a bunch of machines communicating with one another with an emphasis on wireless connectivity at break-neck speeds and reduced latency. 5G is here and with it begins the unrolling of networks that will deliver download speeds that surpass current wired broadband and latency that is lowering itself to levels allowing for complex, real-time applications.
This doesn’t mean everything will not involve humans, because it will, but it does open up realistic applications in which machines do not need either as much human interaction or any at all to communicate and complete tasks. Complicated tasks. Tasks in which the machines make a mistake, realize it, communicate to fix the problem going forward, adjust, and go on about their work. This isn’t iRobot, this is the future, and the future is now.
Everything from automated cars to machinery in factories to even a personal digital assistant in your home communicating with your digital thermostat are parts of the IoT. Automation and the like are what is known as the machine-to-machine (M2M) economy. A global economy with projections of reaching annual revenues of $1.5 trillion by 2030. This is an impressive number with even further reason to believe that blockchains will be involved and because NFTs can be anything digital and unique, we begin to find plenty of ways to apply NFT in the IoT.
Applying 5G in the World of NFTs and the IoT
We’ve spoken about many fun ways NFTs are entering the world. It doesn’t take long to find marketplaces such as SuperRare, Foundation, or OpenSea filled with artwork from around the world available to be bid upon and purchased. But some of the applications for NFTs are yet to come. Blockchain is most notable for its association with Bitcoin but the principles of this technology are what make NFTs so exciting and why they can be applied throughout other applications.
Blockchains take away centralization and create places where entities and users can safely transfer data and track those transfers with precision. Safety is important as even the IoT is learning the range of its own security issues. Because so many people are beginning to use cryptocurrencies on blockchains and they are also becoming more widely accepted by notable names such as Tesla, PayPal, and Starbucks, it is clear that neither crypto nor blockchains are going away any time soon. Companies are using blockchains to help their logistics and track data in new and exciting ways, but there are other applications for these technologies and 5G can help power the infrastructure needed to support these innovations:
From entertainment to navigation to training and more, Extended Reality (XR) has some fantastic applications that are here with only more to come. XR is composed of many other technologies you’re probably more familiar with. We’ve written about XR before, but for now, let’s review the three main components that make XR what it is:
- Augmented Reality (AR)- Here, we bring the virtual world to the real world. A timeless example of AR executed very well is Pokémon GO. AR happens when we use digital devices to interact online with assistance from the physical world.
- Virtual Reality (VR)- Users are taken from the physical world and immersed in a virtual world. VR does not depend on the physical world other than connectivity and a power source.
- Mixed Reality (MR)- When we engage in AR we bring the virtual world into the physical world, however, the effects take place in the digital realm. MR allows those changes to take place both online and in the real world.
There are plenty of real-life applications that will come from all three of these exciting technologies wrapped up in one. 5G’s combination of high speeds and low latency are allowing breakthroughs such as remote surgeries, detailed training, and other complex tasks to be completed online from a remote location. Creating applications and solutions customized for networks and sent through blockchains is a perfect opportunity for NFTs.
We see plenty of fun being had with NFTs and XR provides a reasonable route to creating more value in the entertainment side of NFTs. Remember how we mentioned purchasing an in-game item or costume or whatever you might have but only being able to use it on one game or platform? NFTs allow you to take the same unique item you play with on Call of Duty into your VR chat room with friends as well as your future AR avatars (Coming soon?). The ultimate point is that thanks to NFTs, the various social platforms where people gather will have a safe pathway to allow users to personalize their space with items of value.
M2M is the future and with 5G powering the IoT, it’s clear to see many industries and functions will benefit from automation. Transactions that can be automated are an interesting concept because not only does it free up even more time but it allows the M2M economy a way to automate transactions with verifiable, trustworthy transactions via cryptocurrency. If NFTs are data showing a unique piece of data and verifiable transactions that can be exchanged for money, then automated services may be capable of implementing them on blockchains to further automate how businesses operate.
Software as a Service (SaaS)
SaaS is used in many of our lives with Microsoft Office being a tremendous example of widespread use of the technology. These services are a part of a private network, many cloud-based, that is unique for each provider. This is huge because of the direction 5G continues to push wireless communication. Providing companies, other entities, and even consumers with unique solutions through the Internet or devices is not new, but it continues to evolve. Cloud computing is taking these services to another level including 5G.
The newest generation of wireless communication is here to help wireless networks of all sorts thrive and change the way we connect. Fixed wireless private networks with the boost from 5G are looking to provide entities and even homes with fast networks built to fulfill unique functions. Customizable and even capable of being deployed throughout rural areas to deliver faster speeds than ever before in underserved markets.
The way we conduct business is changing and NFTs are living proof. Through SaaS and custom fixed wireless solutions, we see exciting ways that technologies are giving entities more and more options to operate in a way that is unique to themselves. This is one of many reasons corporate espionage continues to be an issue and a great opportunity for NFTs.
By using NFTs to verify transactions on safer blockchains you can go beyond licenses that can be duplicated and provide custom solutions to businesses through SaaS in an improved manner. This isn’t just a great way for businesses to gain software solutions, but it’s also a huge opportunity for developers, anyone working in blockchain, and, of course, NFTs.
Many major wireless companies are already working to provide privatized networks through fixed wireless powered by 5G for consumers, businesses, and government entities including AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon. The next major wireless carrier in America, DISH Wireless is also taking major steps to solidify its place in the fixed wireless arena as it builds its 5G network throughout the United States. With the commitment from every major wireless provider and SaaS looking to generate $780 billion a year in revenue by 2030, the next decade will be huge for the industry.
Fad or Revolution? Where Do We Go From Here?
NFTs are having their moment but the money doesn’t lie. There are great areas of application for this technology well into the future. Eventually, the market will correct itself. We may not see the same hype around purchasing funny memes and art, or at least not for as high as we are seeing across the board in some niche markets, but NFTs are just getting started as is 5G.
Today, we have three national networks from every major carrier and a fourth on the way. Still, you would be hard-pressed to find an area capable of handling everything 5G is to deliver because building out these networks is a multi-year process and 5G is on a variety of spectrum bands: low-band, mid-band, high-band (mmWave). The fastest speeds are in mmWave whereas the low-band is what is most prevalent at this time with lower speeds provided but better coverage. As providers continue to reach more Americans with faster speeds we will see more futuristic concepts come to life and better applications of 5G in play. NFTs and other blockchain-adjacent functions are very intriguing concepts to pay attention to as things progress.