The 5G network in the workplace: what to expect


The 5G workplace will deliver massive opportunities for businesses. But also serious challenges. In this post, we’re going to look at how the introduction of 5G networks will affect automation, IoT, infrastructure and security. And what businesses should be doing now to prepare. 

5G promises to be up to 100 times faster than today’s internet. The coverage will be more wide-spread, more stable and able to support far more devices than our current 4G networks. Some countries, such as Korea, have already launched private or contained 5G networks. But Ericsson predicts that by 2024 up to 65% of the world’s population will have access to 5G internet. 5G may not be here yet but when it does arrive, it’s going to spread fast.

picture of a women in a 5g workplace using tablet to complete a task

Some of the benefits are fairly easy for us to imagine. HD video calls with zero latency. Real-time collaboration on HD images and even video. Near-instant downloads and uploads of large files.

Increased bandwidth will also enable far more devices to connect and share data over a single network. Many workplaces have already deployed relatively simple IoT technology, such as lighting and heating controls, interactive wayfinding solutions and occupancy sensors. 5G will unleash the full potential of the IoT.

Perhaps the most exciting aspects of 5G are the things we can’t yet imagine. Faster internet speeds will enable new business models, devices and ways of working. Just as cloud computing was made possible by broadband – the cloud computing market is predicted to reach a value of $411bn by 2020 – so too will new markets, technologies and devices arrive in response to 5G’s greater speed and connectivity.

How can businesses prepare for the 5G workplace? What can we do today to take full advantage of this new technology when it arrives? In this post, we’ll explore the effect of 5G on workplace automation, the IoT, security and workplace infrastructure.

Automation

The majority of today’s basic automation programmes are cloud-based. 5G will enable cloud-based automation programmes to complete more complex tasks and transmit far more data than is currently possible. This will increase the speed with which automated tasks can be completed and the number of automated processes that can run in parallel.

More complex or adaptive processes, such as those requiring machine learning, will process data far faster, which will speed up the learning and optimisation process. This will improve the performance of automated customer-facing programmes such chatbots. Or internal processes such as talent and hiring analytics software.

As workplace automation becomes more complex and more commonplace the skills businesses will look for will change. Repetitive, process-oriented tasks are increasingly automated, so creativity, problem-solving and empathy will become more in-demand skillsets. As will knowing how to design, implement and manage complex automations.

IoT

Today’s IoT is severely limited by high latency and low internet speeds. A handful of workplace devices are able to connect to one another and share data but the overall impact on our working lives is marginal. The IoT is still very much in its infancy, in part because the IoT requires more bandwidth than is currently available. Many of the most hyped IoT devices, such as a driverless cars, couldn’t operate at scale using 4G networks. When 5G arrives, the full potential of the IoT will start to be realised.

One of the key aspects of the IoT that 5G will unlock is the ability for individual devices to transmit large volumes of data back to data banks to be analysed centrally. Sharing these insights with customers can help them make better decisions. Or shared with service providers such as utilities companies to help them optimise energy usage, helping companies to be more sustainable at the same time as saving them money.

Infrastructure and devices

In order for businesses to reap the full benefits of 5G internet, some outdated devices and infrastructure may need to be replaced. It’s yet to be seen how compatible or incompatible current devices and workplace infrastructure are with true 5G. Some devices may still work but it’s unlikely they will be able to tap into the full power of the new network.

There’s relatively little information out there right now about what infrastructure or devices will need to be replaced in order to take advantage of true 5G. This information will become available as 5G is rolled out to the public. IT decision-makers may want to bear this in mind for the future, if they want to be among the first to make the leap to the new network.

Security

Cybersecurity risks increase inline with internet connectivity, devices can be exploited as soon as they are connected to the internet. AT&T records 11 billion incidents each day at present. It predicts that this will increase to five billion every 10 minutes in the future. Many commentators have already voiced concerns about the ever-expanding IoT. And 5G has the potential to make it even worse.

5G will make it possible for attackers to launch attacks which are more forceful or sophisticated than was previously the case. And, if they do get access, to exfiltrate data at a much greater speed. 5G will allow us to download an entire HD film in seconds. It may also allow someone to download your product’s source code in a similar amount of time. Security teams will need to plan and ahead and prepare for the arrival of 5G and the challenges that it will bring about.

The time to prepare for the 5G workplace is now

Clearly, 5G will deliver massive opportunities for businesses. Increased internet speeds are likely to give rise to entirely new business models and ways of working in much the same way that broadband did. Most experts agree that the impact of 5G is going to be enormous and hard to predict.

But 5G will also present real challenges. Companies who don’t want to fall behind their competitors will need to invest in 5G-ready infrastructure and devices, which will be costly. And security teams will need to rapidly evolve their cybersecurity processes and policies to adapt to the new threat landscape.

Download our Optimal Office report to learn more about how you can future-proof your workplace technology.


Sanjay Vadher
Sanjay Vadher
Sanjay.Vadher@ricoh.co.uk

Transformation Services Consultant at Ricoh UK & Ireland

Read all articles by Sanjay Vadher