What Is the Tactile Internet?

Filip Kramarczyk

Filip Kramarczyk

CEO @ Husarnet

In a nutshell – a very cost-efficient business opportunity. It’s an evolution of the Internet of Things (IoT) which has a potential to change industrial, business, and social use cases and interactions. How will it work and how can you profit?

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The tactile definition#

You can already benefit from the idea that the internet outgrew its original use. First, we had webpages. Then we had web and mobile applications. Then the market introduced the Internet of Things, which is a way of connecting machines – both stationary and wearable. Now we have tactile internet – a way to bridge people and machines in ways previously impossible.

What’s the definition of tactile? The term itself was coined in 2012 by a mobile communications professor named Gerhard Fettweis and structured in 2014 by International Telecommunication Union (ITU). That’s when the tactile definition was born. Fettweis envisioned a way for people to control robots remotely, with haptic feedback as a response to their actions. He said that it will be possible to remotely control objects; either to save people’s lives or to help them with their tasks.

This requires significant bandwidth and low latency - that’s where 5G technology enters the stage. With its parameters and soon-to-be wide proliferation, it enables businesses and public offices to utilize projects more efficiently than ever before. Tactile internet offers ultra-low latency with reliability and security. All of these factors are important because controlling traffic lights requires public trust. The same goes for remote medical operations which can be performed by highly skilled doctors from different continents. Half a second delay could lead to harming a patient. Or create a headache for an insurance company.

Practical uses of tactile#

Imagine a factory and its manager who is sick. He has to deliver something very important to an in-house worker or point him in the right direction. Or simply take control of a robot that has an important task to perform. What is needed to do that? Low latency to simulate human actions in real-time. In other words, the robot has to be swift and reliable. If a human worker can complete a task in, for example, three seconds, then a robot can’t waste thirty seconds doing the same.

Imagine you are driving a car and the favorite shop that you’re currently passing by, offers a special discount. Do you want to know what it is? Are you eligible for it? You can stop and search the web for more information. Or you can simply agree to have specific marketing content displayed on your in-car entertainment system. Vibrations in your car seat can then translate the info into a brief “let-you-know” message. Yes, you just missed your favorite shop. Yes, we have something special for you.

If you have kids, or are a student, you know how remote education looks like, especiall now, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Tactile internet shows us how it can look in the future. Imagine a virtual reality (VR) set, which allows kids to fully immerse themselves in biology class by walking around a virtual rain forest. Imagine a geography class, where specific types of rocks are not only shown but also simulated. The texture, the size, the feeling. With tactile internet it’s absolutely possible. 

What if you could feel the fabric before buying a shirt that caught your eye? Or a material of the car seat, before you even walk into a showroom? Or maybe you want to buy a scarf as a present and want to know how it feels? Tactile internet can help you with that. And so much more.

Beyond the dictionary#

When you look at the tactile definition, it doesn't really say much about its practical use. It’s not supposed to, because the amount of what we can actually do with this technology is still ahead of us. Robotic exoskeletons that can be used for telerehabilitation or exoskeleton-based artificial limbs that will help immerse people in their surroundings are good examples of what is still to come. 

Another example of that is a global LAN network, which can work on even low-end laptops and PCs. Users can connect a desktop, server, and embedded devices over the internet and experience benefits of seamless connectivity. By using peer-to-peer technology and eliminating traffic running through external servers, performance of your robots and any other devices needed to fulfill your business goals will be even more efficient. 

What if you could run these operations in the background, without a separate operating system and the need to modify the code? What if the data exchanged by connected devices would be encrypted using Perfect Forward Secrecy (PFC) by default, meaning that the session is always safe?

That’s the practical use for Husarnet. We have envisioned this product as a response to a growing global need for interconnected devices which improve people’s lives. In the end, it’s all about the end-user and real-life applications. But in the first phase, it’s about a reliable construct that redefines what a local internet connection really is. Local suddenly becomes global. Effortlessly.

What you need is a device connected to the internet. You don't need to worry about which server is responsible for the traffic, or even how your device is connected to the Internet. 5G is indeed a low latency connectivity technology, but if you want to go a step further, you need to find low latency solutions for higher layers of networking stack. In fact, in each layer of tech you put behind connected devices, there is a challenge or threat:

  • potential connection issues (high latency, disconnections)
  • potential hacker attacks
  • high server costs

Husarnet doesn't need a central server for sending packets back and forth as it’s based on a peer-to-peer technology). It eliminates lags to a minimum, enforces security and optimizes costs of any IT infrastructure. All you need are two devices with internet connection abilities. The rest is taken care off by Husarnet.

Tactile internet to the rescue#

The future is unknown and even the brightest minds can’t really predict the shape of the future. What is certain, however, is the ability to minimize risk and increase productivity. Increase the chance for efficient business. The technology of tactile internet allows us to start doing it now. Tomorrow already happened.