What happens in real time occurs straightaway. But is that really the case? Well, not exactly in IT. There you have delays of milliseconds or even a few minutes. Just how fast everything must happen depends on the requirements – for instance in production.
The dictionary definition of the word “real time” lists two different meanings. One of these states “Real time is the time that elapses simultaneously with reality.” Lots of people would agree with this definition in an everyday context when asked what real time meant for them. But it wouldn’t be quite right in an IT context. There “real time is the specified time that certain electronic computer processes may take in reality.” So what occurs here in real time doesn’t happen immediately, but “only” in a predetermined period of time.
IT distinguishes between an absolute and a relative real time. With absolute real time, data processing takes place within milliseconds; with relative real time it may take several minutes. All of which is very important, say, in production. There you need to respond to errors and changes at different speeds. For certain applications, a delay of a few minutes is usually sufficient. That is the case, for instance, when changing the weekly planning for plant and equipment. But sometimes being able to act in a matter of milliseconds is equally vital – particularly in the case of faults.
5G will minimize response times in future
The new mobile communication standard 5G will minimize response times in future down to a millisecond. Only then will smart cities or autonomous driving truly become viable. Ultimately, data must be transmitted reliably and as fast as possible. But even today we encounter real-time applications at virtually every turn. Whenever an app shows us how many minutes our train is delayed, we're dealing with real time. The same is true when a car’s anti-lock braking system kicks in or the airbag deploys in the vehicle. And these are just a few examples.