Tactile Internet: Bringing Reality Into the Digital World

The Tactile Internet is an emerging technology that promises to revolutionize the way we interact with the digital world. Imagine being able to feel the texture of an object while shopping online, or experiencing realistic haptic feedback while playing a virtual reality game.

This technology is made possible by the convergence of several existing technologies, including 5G networks, IoT devices, and advanced haptic feedback systems. In this post, we will take a closer look at the Tactile Internet and its potential applications in areas such as manufacturing, healthcare, and entertainment. We will also discuss the challenges that need to be overcome in order to make the Tactile Internet a reality and how it might impact our everyday life in the near future.

Introduction to the Tactile Internet

What is the Tactile Internet?

The Tactile Internet is considered as a new innovative communication method over the internet with features such as: high availability, ultra-low latency, reliability and security in order to reproduce human tactile reaction sense over internet applications.

The term Tactile Internet was first used in 2014 by Gerhard Fettweis a professor from the Technical University of Dresden (Germany). The ITU has included the Tactile Internet in August 2014 in its Technology Watch, which assesses new technologies with regards to existing standards and their potential impact on future standardization.

What is the Tactile Internet?

The Tactile Internet is an emerging field of technology aiming to transmit tactile sensations or haptic feedback over a network in real-time, thereby enabling remote physical interactions.

Common questions on the Tactile Internet

How does the Tactile Internet work?

Tactile Internet will enable real-time interactions such as humans-to-machines and machines-to-machines that mimic the same performance of human tactile reactions.

How does the Tactile Internet differ from traditional internet?

Unlike traditional internet which primarily facilitates information exchange, the Tactile Internet enables real-time transmission of physical experience and tactile sensations, creating possibilities for immersive, real-time remote interactions.

What are the key technological requirements for the Tactile Internet?

The Tactile Internet requires ultra-low latency, high bandwidth, and high reliability in communication networks. It also requires advanced haptic feedback devices, robust data compression and processing capabilities, and strong security measures

When will it the Tactile Internet be available?

On one hand many of the core technologies have been implemented for years, the main constrains remains the current networks. The era of Tactile Internet can only really start once the 5G technology is going to be released in 2020. In the meanwhile many organizations are now starting to compile standards around it.

Use Cases

Developing new technologies, architectures, and products to enable extremely low-latency end-to-end communications is the epicenter of the Tactile Internet’s vision. Implementing this concept poses a unique set of challenges that must be overcome in order to truly harness its potential. The envisaged applications of Tactile Internet span across a myriad of domains including education, healthcare, energy, smart cities, and even culture and arts.

Education: Transformation through Haptic Interaction

In education, the advent of the Tactile Internet could lead to unprecedented transformations. By creating a symbiosis of computers, robots, and humans, we open the door to novel interaction modalities. These could fundamentally disrupt the way learning processes occur. The haptic overlay, where humans and machines share sensory experiences, could redefine the teaching and learning of movement-based skills.

Imagine a world where a dance teacher in New York can guide a student in Tokyo through a complex ballet routine in real time, providing instant, haptic feedback. Or consider a scenario where a golf coach can assist a student in improving their swing without being physically present. The tactile feedback from the coach would guide the student’s physical performance, enabling them to feel the correct motion and movement.

Healthcare: Revolutionizing Remote Diagnosis and Treatment

In the realm of healthcare, the potential impact of the Tactile Internet is profound. With the introduction of haptic overlay, a doctor can provide a plethora of diagnoses and treatments remotely. The Tactile Internet essentially removes geographical constraints, allowing a physician located anywhere in the world to perform delicate procedures via robotic systems.

For instance, a highly skilled surgeon in London could perform a complex, minimally invasive surgery on a patient in a rural hospital thousands of miles away, using haptic feedback to feel what the robot feels. This fusion of human tactile sense and robotic spatial accuracy opens the door for enhanced medical procedures and improved patient outcomes.

Energy: Enhancing Grid Management with Ultra-Low Latency

When it comes to energy management, the high availability, ultra-low latency, and reliability promised by the Tactile Internet could revolutionize the way energy is managed across the entire grid. By ensuring instantaneous communication between different nodes, the generation of unusable reactive power could be minimized.

Consider a future smart grid where energy-producing and consuming devices communicate in real time, ensuring optimal energy distribution and use. This level of interaction can lead to more efficient power systems, minimizing wastage, and maximizing the use of renewable energy sources.

Smart City: Optimizing Operations and Enhancing Efficiency

In the context of smart cities, the Tactile Internet could play a significant role in optimizing operations, managing traffic flow, enhancing space management, enabling autonomous driving, improving safety, and boosting energy efficiency. Real-time interactions between humans and machines facilitated by the Tactile Internet could lead to more efficient and intelligent city systems.

Envision an urban environment where traffic management systems react in real-time to changes in traffic flow, reducing congestion, and optimizing commute times. Or consider autonomous vehicles communicating instantly with each other and with traffic infrastructure, dramatically improving road safety.

Culture and Arts: Creating New Interaction Paradigms

Even in the sphere of culture and arts, the Tactile Internet could fundamentally alter the way humans interact with their surroundings. Human-to-human and human-to-machine interactions would transform from being task-oriented to a seamless, immersive experience, affecting all facets of society.

Imagine a museum visit where tactile feedback allows you to “touch” and explore artifacts from your home, or a virtual music lesson where the tactile feedback lets you feel the strum of a guitar string, offering a learning experience akin to in-person lessons. These transformative experiences could change our habits, enrich our cultural experiences, and reshape our economy.

China has successfully tested the first-ever remote-surgery equipment that utilizes 5G mobile network technology. On January 8th 2019, a doctor in Fujian province remotely performed a liver removal on a laboratory animal via control of robotic surgical arms over a 5G connection. The delay between the doctor’s device and the robot in the surgical room was reported to be a mere 0.1 seconds. Researchers believe that the technology’s high-speed can decrease the risk of fatal medical errors and that 5G-enabled remote surgery may soon be viable for human patients.

Limitations and technical challenges

Connectivity: ultra low-latency and high-bandwidth communication

Perhaps one of the most formidable obstacles is establishing a network capable of ultra-low latency and high-bandwidth communication. The Tactile Internet demands a latency so minimal that it’s hardly perceivable – within the ballpark of a few milliseconds. Such low latency is crucial to create an immersive, immediate, and authentic user experience. Without it, the lag between user actions and corresponding haptic responses could break the realism of the experience. Moreover, high-bandwidth communication is essential. Haptic data is voluminous; it requires an infrastructure capable of transferring large amounts of information at lightning speed to ensure high-fidelity haptic feedback. Meeting these stringent requirements is a formidable task for existing communication technologies, especially in scenarios where network coverage is inadequate, or network congestion is prevalent.

Haptic: realistic and high-fidelity haptic feedback

Next, the challenge of realistic and high-fidelity haptic feedback must be addressed. Traditional haptic systems, while effective in some scenarios, have their limits. Often, they offer a narrow range of sensory inputs, mainly vibrations or changes in pressure. To truly mimic reality, a more sophisticated haptic feedback system is necessary. A high-fidelity haptic system should provide a range of sensations that extend beyond simple vibrations. It must be capable of replicating various aspects of the tactile experience such as temperature, texture, and detailed pressure changes, thereby offering a multi-dimensional sensory experience.

Data processing: ultra compressed data

The task of data processing and compression is yet another hurdle to overcome. Due to the nature of the Tactile Internet – with large quantities of haptic data needing real-time transmission – it is vital that data compression techniques maintain the integrity and quality of the haptic feedback. Not only must this data be highly compressed, but it also needs to be processed, interpreted, and relayed in real-time. This is a complex task that requires sophisticated algorithms and powerful processing capabilities.

Standardization: universally accepted standards for haptic

The issue of standardization also looms large. The Tactile Internet ecosystem is diverse, incorporating a multitude of devices and systems. At present, there is a dearth of universally accepted standards for transmitting and interpreting haptic data. The absence of these standards complicates interoperability, making it challenging to ensure that the quality of the haptic experience remains consistent across varied devices and systems.

Cybersecurity: sensitive data protection

Lastly, with the implementation of the Tactile Internet comes an array of ethical and security considerations. Ensuring the protection of sensitive haptic data is of utmost importance. As the Tactile Internet expands, a corresponding increase in potential threats to the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of haptic data can be expected.

Implementing robust cybersecurity measures is a must to safeguard against unauthorized access or misuse of data. This includes developing protocols for secure data transmission, as well as strengthening devices and systems against cyber threats. Addressing these issues will be instrumental in establishing trust and promoting widespread adoption of the Tactile Internet.


As 5G networks continue to roll out and IoT devices become more ubiquitous, the potential for real-time, low latency haptic feedback will become increasingly viable. Additionally, advancements in haptic feedback technology, such as the development of force-feedback exoskeletons, will greatly enhance the realism of the Tactile Internet experience. However, for the Tactile Internet to fully realize its potential, significant progress must still be made in areas such as data processing and compression, as well as the development of new standardized protocols and interfaces to ensure seamless interoperability between different devices and systems.

Overall, the Tactile Internet has the potential to greatly enhance the way we interact with the digital world, and bring about new and exciting possibilities in various areas. While there are still technical challenges to be overcome, the rapid pace of technological advancement suggests that the Tactile Internet will become a reality in the near future. However, it’s important to keep in mind that this technology might also raise some ethical issues like cyber security and data protection. A careful consideration should be made of how this technology is implemented and how it can be protected from cyber attacks or misuse.

The Internet of Things is just the beginning of a digital transformation and the next evolutionary step of this transformation is the “Tactile Internet”, which will completely change the way humans and machines interact.

.. an exciting new era is coming.

Image from Unsplash

Leave a Reply