Super-fast 5G mobile networks promise to link not only people more efficiently, but also allow for greater interconnectivity and control of machines, objects and devices. Its high Gbps data transfer rates, low latency and high capacity will be a boon to consumers and businesses alike. That comes with significant new security risks, as one early adopter is learning.
Global home appliance manufacturer Whirlpool has already begun the process of rolling out 5G for one of its factories. The company is using IoT devices for predictive maintenance, environmental controls, process monitoring using a traditional local area WiFI network, but 5G will allow the company to do something that is impossible with WiFi: deploy autonomous forklifts and other vehicles.
“My factories have a lot of metal,” says Douglas Barnes, Whirlpool’s North American regional IT and OT manufacturing infrastructure applications manager. “WiFi reflects off metal. Even if I went with a mesh WiFi in the factory, we’ve got too much metal. But 5G goes through walls, and it doesn’t reflect off metal.”
That means that once 5G is in place on the factory floor, Whirlpool can make dramatic changes, he says. “This will allow us to go to truly autonomous vehicles throughout the entire plant, for maintenance, for delivery, for everything that supports the manufacturing operations. That business case carries so much weight and so much in cost savings. The payback for 5G is very favorable.”