INSIGHTS Keeping Our Eyes on 5G By Andrew Karp Monday, March 22, 2021 12:00 AM There’s a lot of buzz about 5G networks these days. Much of it comes from ads by telecom carriers touting much faster data transmission. This increased speed, due to 5G’s extremely low latency rate—a measurement of how long it takes a device to respond to other devices over a network—is 5G’s killer app. 5G’s potential impact on our interconnected, digital world can’t be underestimated. It will improve the performance of everything within the internet of things (IoT), from self-driving cars to emergency alert systems to watching sports events. As Verizon chairman and CEO Hans Vestberg asserted in his 2021 CES keynote, “5G is an overlay for the entire global economy.” We’re still a ways off from being able to realize 5G’s benefits. Networks have been built in many U.S. cities as well as in other international markets, but the infrastructure is still lacking in many parts of the world. Various forms of 5G are competing for market share, offering different performance levels. And we’ll need new devices to take advantage of the advanced capabilities of those networks. (Wired magazine offers a good overview of the status of 5G technology in its recent article, “The Wired Guide to 5G.) (https://www.wired.com/story/wired-guide-5g/) Yet 5G is moving forward rapidly on many fronts, including health care. One scenario frequently cited by medical experts involves surgeons operating on a patient remotely, using robotic techniques, with no discernable lag time. Another is being able to monitor and track patients using sensor-equipped devices that can report real-time data to health care providers. Doctors could also share data and images with colleagues instantly for remote consultations. It’s easy to imagine the possibilities 5G could unlock for vision care, particularly it the burgeoning field of ocular telehealth. But brick-and-mortar optical stores and eyecare practices could also benefit from 5G’s speed in both the exam lane and dispensary, particularly if they have adopted an omnichannel approach to serving patients. Please email me at email@example.com to let me know if you are using 5G either for work or personal use, and what your experience has been like. Your feedback will help us keep an eye on this new technology as it begins to get traction in the optical realm.