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.