A connected world has emerged from the stories of science-fiction to become reality today.
Thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT), we are opening the garage, adjusting the light and temperature at home even before reaching, measuring vital health parameters and alerting the doctors in case of an issue, and automatically alerting the grocery store for a refill of eggs before our stock runs out.
But the power of IoT stands to be further boosted with the coming of 5G.
Several studies have proved that the introduction of 5G will enable emerging technologies such as IoT to become a part of everyone’s life. It will not just lead to faster downloads, but will also play a crucial role in managing critical situations remotely, such as controlling heavy machinery to save a worker’s life or performing remote surgeries.
The two combined together could become a game-changer across several industries ranging from manufacturing, automotive, home appliances to healthcare. According to Gartner, 59% of companies are planning to use 5G to support IoT across their business.
It opens the door to several opportunities. But as with every technology, there are pros and cons to consider.
Let’s understand in detail the opportunities and the threats associated with IoT in the age of 5G.
Opportunities And Threats Of Using IoT With 5G
- Faster data speed: The success of IoT is dependent on ready connectivity. Its performance is reliant upon how fast IoT devices, smartphones, etc. can communicate and transfer data with business applications and platforms. 5G could be 10 times faster than the current network speed. This means that IoT devices will be able to transfer data faster than before. There will be a significant improvement in how devices send and receive data. In industries such as healthcare and critical applications such as autonomous vehicles, faster data speed is crucial to save lives and get work done efficiently.
- Low latency: An important characteristic of 5G is the low latency. Imagine a surgeon giving instructions to a team of doctors from a remote location while performing a surgery. Latency introduces lags, lags could cause a communication breakdown, and that could be a potential threat to the patient’s life. In an array of applications, data latency can prove to be disastrous. In others, like Augmented Reality apps or Gaming, latency could be a fundamental detriment to the app experience and usability. 5G is based on the foundation of ultra-reliable low latency communication (URLLC). It can process a large volume of data in real-time, which enables IoT devices to respond faster and avoid transmission delay. Industries and people can function efficiently without any disruption. For example, hospitals can now replace wired connections with low latency wireless 5G connections during surgery.
- Better network stability: Imagine if a smart city that runs on connected devices faces connectivity issues. There will be complete mayhem in the city with control lost over critical functions such as traffic management. Network stability is not just a good-to-have feature; it is a must-have in many IoT use-cases. 5G offers a stable network and better coverage than other networks. Its stability is the primary reason behind the low latency. This is perfect for IoT devices that rely on a stable network to transfer real-time data to get tasks completed. It can improve the performance of IoT devices, and consumers will also benefit from it.
- Security challenges: Although 5G has built-in security systems and encryptions that make it stronger, cyber experts believe that it could still be vulnerable to cyberattacks. One challenge is that security standards and protocols are still in the early stages of being widely understood and accepted. An AT&T cybersecurity study revealed that 39% of respondents are worried about the security of the connected devices in the network. They worry that connected devices could expose them to larger security threats. According to a 2019 Brookings report, this is because the network has moved from centralized; hardware-based switching to software-based, distributed routing. Hackers could gain control over the software managing the network and attack it. This eventually would make IoT devices vulnerable to attacks.
- Privacy challenges: In our last blog, we discussed the challenges that are holding up the 5G wave. One of them we discussed was about privacy challenges. Consumer privacy could be compromised due to semantic information attacks, timing attacks, and boundary attacks that hit the subscriber’s location privacy. There is also a potential threat to the consumer’s data and identity. Considering how consumers take their data privacy seriously and as connected devices rely the most on data, such threats to privacy could discourage people from using IoT devices with a 5G network.
- Other potential risks to mission-critical devices: As IoT’s market grows; the scope for security threat also increases. Innovative threats could emerge that don’t exist today. Recently, the FDA recalled half a million pacemakers because they were vulnerable to attacks. With more IoT devices getting connected to 5G networks, there is an increasing scope for hackers to attack the devices. They could manipulate the devices and create irreversible damage if not monitored and controlled periodically.
According to Statista, the number of IoT devices will rise to 74 billion by 2025. While there are worries of security threats in using IoT devices with 5G, one cannot ignore the impact it will have on people and industries. IoT seems to be made for 5G. Both can come together to deliver innovative solutions across industries and for society.
What’s required is a combined effort by Mobile Network Operators (MNO) and companies that build IoT devices and solutions. Such a considered partnership can develop a shared security model where the company can take responsibility for the IoT devices, and the MNO looks after managing the network infrastructure and ensuring that it meets the 3GPP framework. This way, people and industries can use IoT devices freely without the fear of cyberattacks to unlock the potential.