This is the year that 5G will take off, according to the experts at MWC19, who forecast 10 million 5G connections in 21 markets by year end.

As the realization of 5G begins, the mobile industry is looking for business models and monetization strategies to make up for the huge investment required for the technology. Many are looking to move beyond connectivity to develop new services that capitalize on 5G speeds, architectures, and data transfer capabilities.

Launched in June 2018, the SAP’s 5G Innovation Council is a cross-industry collaborative council of SAP customers that have an interest in the future of business in a 5G environment. SAP’s digital platform and industry-specific knowledge of business processes make it uniquely positioned to underpin the new set of services that will be delivered on 5G.

“It’s a very exciting time for SAP,” said Frank Wilde, senior director, Platform and Data Management Center of Excellence, SAP, speaking to an audience at the SAP stand during MWC19. “We love that we are helping to streamline that value chain through the 5G council.”

The council comprises service providers, mobile carriers, and equipment providers from Europe, North America, and Asia – each introducing diverse perspectives for evaluating new business models. Other players include manufacturing and media firms interested in exploring wider scenarios based on the 5G technology. To maintain transparency and drive innovation outcomes, care is taken to avoid having direct competitors in the same country on the council together.

“The council is really something that started two years ago, going back to Mobile World Congress,” says Wilde. “When we realized how 5G is going to be a fundamental shift in network design as well as service coverage, we saw that there was a key opportunity for us to be able to help pull together the value chain and create an ecosystem approach.”

SAP and the Telco Opportunity

There are three areas of potential opportunity for members of the council. The first is the overall 5G opportunity that focuses on monetization strategies, utilizing SAP’s multi-industry DNA in combination with a global telecommunication infrastructure and mobile edge computing (MEC). The second opportunity for the council centers on its industry focus, driven by engaging with customers to lead co-innovation projects in targeted verticals. So far, the council has explored industry scenarios for connected vehicles, smart cities, and smart manufacturing.

The third opportunity is available from cloud and edge analytics, to leverage edge cloud and SAP’s edge processing capabilities. Multi-access edge computing puts low latency storage and compute power at the network’s edge, near the customer’s location, for even greater efficiency. The possibilities of 5G are leading SAP to rethink its architecture.

“It’s not only a hardware upgrade; it’s a fundamental shift in network design,” says Carl Kehres, senior director, SAP. “You now have a software-defined network, where you can enable network slicing, change latency, and adjust throughput in ways that 4G was not able to do.”

SAP Edge Services Delivers Computing Where It Is Needed

Multi-access edge computing will play a key role in delivering data-heavy 5G services. As well as having a cloud data platform that can handle the massive volumes of data from Internet of Things (IoT) intelligence, SAP also has an edge computing framework – SAP Edge Services – that can identify exactly where computing needs to happen. SAP Edge Services gives customers the ability to manage a lifecycle of a micro-service by taking some of the capability from centralized SAP S/4HANA Cloud or SAP Asset Intelligence Network and distributing it out toward the edge. Wilde says, “It’s an exciting opportunity for us to build out our edge computing framework and weave that into the solutions to reach those industries we’ve been partnering with.”

Four Use Cases Under Consideration

Design Thinking has gathered support in the council as a process to drive collaborative innovation. It is particularly appealing to telecommunication companies, who now need a new methodology as they reimagine their business models and consider new use cases.

Some of the use cases that the council is working on include plant maintenance, which aims to maximize the technician’s wrench time, derive work order workflows, and synchronize with digital core. Another is future-proof stores, which spark a new level of customer experience based on sensor data to discern things like customer intent as to whether they will make a purchase or if they are just browsing. Connected worker safety is an important area, where technology based on 5G can help detect emergency situations and notify rescue teams in real time as well as automatically create incident reports with context-sensitive sensor data. Also of interest is the use case to extend SAP Asset Intelligence Network to the edge for new capabilities in predictive maintenance, to complete mission-critical tasks with fast local performance in spite of poor network connectivity, and to synchronize asset-core data with edge.

The SAP’s 5G Innovation Council plans to reconvene at the SAP offices in Palo Alto in June.