Ushering in an era of pervasive intelligence, powered by 6G

Exploring how the 6G era of revolutionary cloud-integrated networks will allow businesses to leverage unprecedented levels of insights.

Cloud integrated networks (5G+) have the potential to be a game changer for the global economy, and society more broadly. Through the combined impact of 5G, cloud and AI, billions of sensors, devices and people can connect and communicate with each other in new ways, helping to speed up the flow of information and knowledge creation across the world. However, as significant as this is, the introduction of 6G in 2030 will truly change the way we live, work and interact. It will herald a new era of “pervasive intelligence”, where cyber-physical, and cyber-life or human systems are blended and in which unprecedented volumes of data will be generated, shared, accessed and acted upon between individual enterprises, sectors and geographies.

The impact that this new era will have cannot be understated. It will power economies, drive sector convergence, enable the distributed infrastructure behind Web 3.0 and scale and interconnect metaverses. Put simply, it will transform all aspects of life. But getting there isn’t straightforward, and we need to act now to lay the foundations that are necessary if we are to harness its power. This on its own is not the most straightforward undertaking, as is evidenced by the issues with the 5G+ rollout and adoption. The right infrastructure and business models were not in place, which led to delays and innovative potential left on the table. Let’s learn from past mistakes, course correct and ensure we’re ready for the future of pervasive intelligence.

Adopt an “ecosystem mindset”

Transformation into the pervasive intelligence era will first require the establishment of a high performance, integrated ecosystem made up of a range of partners from different industries and sectors. This is critical as pervasive intelligence will only be reached in an environment where data and information can move freely and securely. This, however, cannot happen if companies operate in silos or in isolation.

In order to achieve this, leaders must adopt an “ecosystem mindset” and start building future-proofed tech architectures with different partners that will form the backbone of the ecosystem. At the same time, they need to create the right business models and use cases to demonstrate the value of the ecosystem approach, as this will help to get all stakeholders, both internal and external, on board from the start.

The importance of cybersecurity, regulation and standards

Ensuring robust cybersecurity measures are in place will be critical to fully realising the concept of pervasive intelligence. After all, to exist in a world that has data at its core is to put your trust in the fact that it will be held securely. To ensure that it is, leaders need to introduce new, high-performance, ultra-secure cloud integrated networks. There may be reluctance to do so; it is, after all, a big undertaking to introduce new safety systems and protocols, so many may be tempted to stick with their existing processes. But doing so is a mistake – current systems are not agile, scalable limiting productivity growth and will soon be outdated and may put the ecosystem at risk. Leaders need to step out of their comfort zone to future-proof their businesses now.

Regulation will also need to evolve quickly. A network of networks will completely challenge the norms governing everything from privacy and antitrust, to tax and trade protection. New rules will be required to ensure that common standards are clearly recognised and understood, as well as met. This will be in stark contrast to the fragmented landscape that currently governs industrial operations technology environments, which has ultimately held back the roll out of emerging technologies.  

Putting employees at the centre of everything

The introduction of any new and highly disruptive technology can strike fear into employees, who may see it as a threat to their jobs and way of living. When this happens, transformation slows or even halts. So, to achieve the promise of pervasive intelligence that we aspire to, leaders need to support their colleagues and offer reassurance, demonstrating how, rather than posing a threat, future tech will in fact empower them. The impact that this approach can have is significant; recent research from EY and the University of Oxford Said Business School found that prioritising employee emotions increased the chance of a successful transformation by more than 70 per cent. It’s therefore clear that even as technology creates new and seemingly endless possibilities, people must always remain at the centre.  

Articulating a clear, bold vision of the future

Preparing for pervasive intelligence will require leaders to develop and articulate a clear, bold vision that all stakeholders can get behind. This is a complex undertaking, as it will involve collaboration with multiple partners across different sectors and industries. But it will be essential, both in clarifying the direction the business is heading and inspiring people to work towards it.

The concept of pervasive intelligence may seem like science fiction, but it’s not. It’s a reality, and it will be here soon. Businesses need to prepare now to capitalise on all the opportunities it creates.

Fuad Siddiqui is global 5G industry and emerging tech leader at EY.


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