Watch 'Speed of Thought,' a documentary from the 5G frontier

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Wireless communication has come a long way—from the world’s first commercial cellular phone call, placed in 1983, to the on-demand experiences available today at the tap of a smartphone. For all this progress, innovators still needed a network that could power their boldest visions, and enable activities that were once unthinkable.

Enter 5G. The fifth generation of wireless technology has the potential to significantly expand the promise of wireless communication, so that dangerous work might be made less hazardous and educational instruction made more dynamic. "Speed of Thought," a new documentary produced in partnership with Verizon and available to stream beginning on September 16 on Amazon Prime and other channels, explores several of these high-impact scenarios.

Viewers are introduced to some tantalizing possibilities that 5G might make viable: Could surgery be remotely performed from Boston on a patient in San Francisco? Could wearable technology help firefighters see through smoke? Could AR help close the education gap? And can the Internet of Things be harnessed to help make streets safer?

Read on to learn how the first wave of 5G visionaries, featured in "Speed of Thought," are poised to use next-generation wireless technology to help serve the greater good on a massive scale.

Remote surgery

For physicians in rural areas, replicating the technology-intensive care found in metro areas has always been a challenge. If a patient requires an emergency surgical intervention, they may have only hours to live. Why should their chance for survival be determined by their geography?

Corindus, a vascular robotics company recently acquired by Siemens Healthineers, is attempting to solve this problem with help from a next-gen network. Its mission is to program a robotic arm that a physician can manipulate from anywhere in the country. On past generations of wireless networks, there would be an unacceptably long delay in communicating between the physician and a robotic arm. But the increased speed, bandwidth and low latency of a 5G network could potentially allow the physician remotely to place a stent or catheter with unprecedented accuracy and speed, even from thousands of miles away.

Firefighter safety

To help spot victims in a burning structure, firefighters are equipped with several flashlights. But too often that light only serves to illuminate smoke and nothing more. When seconds matter, that lack of visibility can imperil not only the people in need of rescue, but the brave professionals dedicated to bringing them to safety.

Qwake Technologies, a San Francisco-based technology company, is hoping to use 5G technology in an AR-augmented helmet to allow firefighters essentially to see through smoke. Qwake is aiming to design a helmet that can relay outlines of the smoke-filled environment in near-real time to the firefighter, helping them make a clearer assessment of the situation. Qwake's goal is to help firefighters find victims faster, detect heat and even count stairs through heavy smoke.

The education opportunity gap

5G has the potential to help prepare school children for an increasingly tech-forward future. By bringing educational AR and VR simulations to underserved communities, one New York-based nonprofit, Movers and Shakers NYC, is introducing students impacted by the digital divide to technologies they may have otherwise never learned about.

“We genuinely believe that the next Bill Gates could be a 12-year-old Black girl who lives in New York City public housing,” says Glenn Cantave, the initiative’s founder and CEO. “The problem is, if she’s not exposed to the hardware or the resources, then that’s not going to happen.” 5G technology allows Movers and Shakers to represent the stories they want to tell in a rich, evocative, educational way. By pairing a next-generation network with complex AR experiences that bring two-dimensional lessons roaring to life, an organization like Movers and Shakers can better inspire the creators of tomorrow.

Smart city networks

Right now, in cities across the country, trials are underway to demonstrate how 5G technology could help make streets safer for all users. But to automate collision avoidance, cars must sense what is around them with pinpoint accuracy—whether it’s a pedestrian crossing the street or other potential hazards. For that, they need 5G.

At Verizon, engineers are developing a telemetry box connected to a 5G network that can be placed inside a vehicle. This box can relay the vehicle’s precise latitude and longitude, speed, bearing and accelerometer data with the precision required to avoid a collision. Such a solution has the potential to save lives—and eventually stop automotive collisions altogether.


Society is arriving at an entirely new frontier, one where technology empowers humans to reimagine how they experience the world around them.

“The brain is the most complex machine in the known universe,” says Dr. John Long, Chief Technology Officer of Qwake Technologies. “And what advances in wireless technologies allow us to do is to expand the abilities of our mind from the physical constraints of our bodies.”

As 5G continues to be deployed, its potential becomes ever clearer—and as the innovators profiled in Speed of Thought demonstrate, more essential.

Learn more about 5G Ultra Wideband’s potential impact on smart city networks, the education opportunity gap, firefighter safety and remote surgery in "Speed of Thought."

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