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Meet the Expert: Prof Mischa Dohler, world expert on 5G technology

This week, we speak to Professor Mischa Dohler, Professor in Wireless Communications at King’s College London, about how young people can best harness the future of the internet technology.

You’re a world expert on 5G. What is it, and how will it affect young people’s future?

5G is the latest generation of internet technology. It is between 10 and 100 times better than 4G, meaning much lower latency – below 10 miliseconds! It mimics the feeling of being in the same room, meaning two people in two completely different parts of the world feel they are actually together!! Low latency is the cause of the most disruptive impact of 5G: connectedness. I call it “synchronised reality”, which goes far beyond our current experience of virtual reality.

How can 5G have a positive impact on the world?

Think of 5G like an internet – just with far greater impact than our existing one. In terms of specific use cases about its applications, I call the biggest opportunity the “Internet of Skills”, in which we are able to transmit skills, kinaesthetic movement and touch through networks. Imagine a plumber could fix pipes, a music teacher could teach the piano, an art teacher could teach how to paint, and an expert surgeon could conduct complex surgery  – all remotely, because the network latency is so low.

I am a musician, and I work with Rob del Naja, lead singer and co-founder of Massive Attack, amongst others. I was in Berlin 2 years ago, and my daughter was singing along with me in the Guildhall at the same time… with 20 milliseconds latency. It felt as if she was with me in the room. I did a similar project with the jazz pianist Jamie Cullum, who led the world’s first 5G music lesson from his piano at the two thousand year-old Roman Amphitheatre in London, playing live with amateur musicians in Bristol and Birmingham using 5G technology from King’s College London, EE, Smart Internet Lab at the University of Bristol and Digital Catapult.

“Low latency is the cause of the most disruptive impact of 5G: connectedness. I call it “synchronised reality”, which goes far beyond our current experience of virtual reality.

What’s your advice for young people looking to get into tech?

Times have changed so much. The majority of learning material is online, free and accessible. I encourage young people to explore what’s out there and find a thrill in that exploration! 

Why is existing tech education not working?

The pace of innovation is accelerating. When I went to school, tech was hardware, boxes… Now it’s software which is written quickly and being updated super fast. The certification of curriculum needs updating, but it takes time to get curriculum change approval and this slows us down… This means that in academic settings like King’s, we teach the fundamentals, but not the cutting edge, latest tech. 

We need to move faster to keep tech education relevant and up to date. Tech curricula should look very different to what currently exists. Learning should be project-based, self-paced and self-directed – both online and in-person – and encourage creativity. 

Why is our work Fire Tech so important?

Fire Tech closes a real gap in the current market. Schools and universities take care of traditional education. But that means we rely on the internet to learn something cutting edge or complex (for example, convolutional neural networks, and how to configure them). How to link concepts with practical applications is key – and Fire Tech helps make tech education relevant to the real world.

How are young people doing incredible things with technology?

I see the fire and appetite in young people to do amazing things in tech. They have no fear – they jump off the cliff and assemble the aeroplane on the way down. I offer internships to young people under the age of 18 to work in a professional environment. I explained to a group of them my vision for the Internet of Skills and told them what is possible and what is not possible… After 6 weeks they came back and having done what I’d said was impossible: they’d made a haptic tennis game that lets you play tennis across the Atlantic, in real time. Incredible! These are the silent innovators – they are not on TV or radio. They’re behind closed doors, using their own hunger to imagine the future.

How can kids harness technology to become effective digital leaders?

Kids, parents and society have to embrace new technology. History has shown that there’s no use saying no to tech, as the thrust of innovation is too strong. Electricity came along, cars… The ability to embrace it is really important. It always takes 1-2 generations for new tech to be embraced effectively. All new tech always causes issues, but we do change and adapt. We need to learn to build walls against those things that may cause harm, addiction and digital overuse. We should teach this much more, at school, and at society level. 

About Mischa Dohler

Mischa Dohler is full Professor in Wireless Communications at King’s College London, driving cross-disciplinary research and innovation in technology, sciences and arts. He is a Fellow of the IEEE, the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Royal Society of Arts (RSA), the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET); and a Distinguished Member of Harvard Square Leaders Excellence. He is a serial entrepreneur with 5 companies, including Smart Cities pioneering company Worldsensing; composer & pianist with 5 albums on Spotify/iTunes; and fluent in 6 languages. He acts as policy advisor on issues related to digital, skills and education. He has had ample coverage by national and international press and media.

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