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Getting 5G in your sweater

The advanced flexible transistor developed at UW-Madison. Image credit: Jung-Hun Seo/University at Buffalo, State University of New York

5G is going to be a sort of umbrella connecting a variety of things using different frequencies and different protocols. IoT will be part of the 5G “ecosystems” and the evolution of materials and production processes promises to extend the range of objects that can be IoT, by embedding electronics, and be connected via 5G.

In this sense the results obtained by a team at the University of Wisconsin-Madison open a window on the future decade. By creating BiCMOS (Bipolar CMOS- Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor) that can be layered on a plastic support, hence be flexible, they are making possible to embed electronics on a variety of objects, your sweater included.

Flexible electronics is not a novelty, flexible screens, as an example, have been demonstrated in the last ten years as well as several prototype chips.  What is really new here is the production process that is highly simplified making industrial production possible at low cost.

Affordability is crucial whenever we think of spreading innovation to the mass market. Having a 5G enabled sweater costing like a small car is not going to change the world habits. Having one that cost approximately the same as a normal sweater can.

There is still a few years wait before 5G becomes mainstream and we may expect in the meantime a variety of new devices, and normal object, acquiring connectivity capability. Our communication “ambient” at the end of the next decade might be quite different from the one we take for granted today.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. He's currently the Chair of the Symbiotic Autonomous Systems Initiative of IEEE-FDC. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and up to September 2018 he was the Head of the EIT Digital Industrial Doctoral School. Previously, up to December 2011, he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the Industry Advisory Board within the Future Directions Committee. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books. He writes a daily blog,  http://sites.ieee.org/futuredirections/category/blog/, with commentary on innovation in various technology and market areas.

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