5G, ethics and new use cases

September 15, 2021

You've probably already heard about 5G and its deployment. But do you know how it works and how it can impact your industry?

What is 5G?

5G or 5G NR (New Radio) is the 5th generation of mobile communication. Although in the short term it can be considered as a simple evolution of 4G (it uses the same technologies and can reuse the same frequency bands), it is nonetheless a disruptive technology.

In contrast to previous generations, it aims to integrate a large number of new use cases and differs in several respects:

- Ultra high speed (comparable to fibre)

- Virtually zero latency (crucial for the deployment of new uses such as tele-medicine or autonomous vehicles)

- Ultra connectivity (it can handle a very large number of simultaneous connections)

It will thus be able to be used in a wide variety of sectors, including industry.

5G and new uses

By boosting the density of connections per antenna, 5G will allow many more people and many more objects to be connected at the same time. In particular, objects capable of interacting and communicating with each other. This is the world of the Internet of Things.

If connected objects are already part of our daily lives (connected watches, surveillance cameras, scales, etc.), there will be nearly 50 billion of them by 2025. In the near future, our entire environment will be connected and interconnected.

In addition to simple uses for private individuals (easier video downloading, cloud gaming, etc.), 5G will also encourage the emergence of new uses, particularly for the agricultural, industrial (agri-food or pharmaceutical) and logistics sectors. Here are some examples:

- 5G and industry:

The short-term opportunities will be primarily related to Industry 4.0, the digitalisation of manufacturing or other production processes. A major improvement will also be the possibility to monitor machines remotely. In this way, it will be possible to know the status of equipment in real time, avoid interruptions in operation and increase productivity. For example, cold stores will be systematically equipped with sensors to prevent breakdowns (e.g. through predictive maintenance), optimise their energy consumption and guarantee the quality of stored perishable products.  

- 5G and the agricultural sector :

Farmers will be able to rely on drones and a dense network of sensors to collect real-time data on the fertiliser needs of their livestock, the condition of their crops and the weather. The use of 5G sensors will allow them to streamline costs, increase yields and improve the safety of the food they produce, while promoting state-of-the-art agriculture that uses fewer natural resources and chemicals.

- 5G and logistics:

By promoting hyper connectivity in vehicles, 5G (and its responsiveness) will enable the deployment of fleets of automated vehicles that are less polluting, more intelligent and safer. Maintenance operations will be simplified. The proliferation of GPS trackers will also allow routes to be optimised according to the weather, traffic or the condition of goods. With all the information collected, it will be easier to make decisions that will reduce fuel costs, improve driver safety and guarantee the quality of the products transported.

Although 5G will contribute to a 100% connected future, it still raises a few questions, particularly concerning its environmental impact and its impact on our health.

What are the risks of 5G?

5G will be more efficient than 4G. Thus, for the same amount of data, it is more efficient and consumes less energy. However, many people are concerned about an explosion in digital consumption, favoured by faster speeds and almost non-existent latency, and with it a very high energy consumption. Added to this is the cost of installing new antennas, even if the 4G antennas will initially be reused.

Finally, the introduction of 5G will necessarily lead to a massive renewal of the smartphone fleet, and with it the premature scrapping of many phones. All of these aspects give rise to fears of a significant ecological impact.

At the same time, the question that often arises concerns the waves used by 5G (5G Sub-6 and millimetre waves) and their impact on our health. To date, it is not possible to answer this question in a formal way. This is why the WHO (World Health Organisation) has classified the electromagnetic fields of 5G as "possible carcinogens". However, this does not mean that they cause cancer. And if there is a risk, it is small: no study has been able to show it.

Various health authorities in European countries as well as several national public agencies have also stated that 5G is safe for our health as long as the recommendations are followed.

In conclusion

The launch of a new technology always raises concerns. However, 5G is full of promise and its potential for the development of new use cases should not be overlooked.

For its part, Biotraq will remain vigilant to ensure that this new technology is only offered with real gains in use for the end user and guarantees for the planet.

Interested in finding out more?

Contact us

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