PwC predicts wide-scale development of 5G communication networks will contribute an additional 1.3 trillion USD to global GDP by 2030. With logistics and transport among the primary target sectors for 5G-enabled technology, what are the key benefits 5G could bring? Here, Kristian Torode, Director and Co-founder of business broadband provider Crystaline explores.
With speeds comparable to home broadband and low latency, 5G won’t just improve our home lives, it’s set to revolutionise industry in the same way. The logistics industry, for example, has historically struggled with labour shortages, rapid changes in demand, and poor tracking information. Fortunately, the development of 5G could provide the answer to these issues and more.
Unlike older technologies such as barcodes and RFID tags, which can experience problems during scanning, 5G-enabled tracking could be the solution to better tracking of goods. A 5G-enabled device doesn’t need to be scanned and can report its location independently and in real time, allowing for more precise journey tracking with minimal effort. In fact, it’s possible to track the product right down to the shelf it is stored on, enabling more transparent and accurate tracking throughout the supply chain.
A complete network
One of the factors previously holding back the adoption of Internet of Things (IoT) devices has been capacity. A 4G cell tower, for example, can only hold around 2,000 devices at once. As a result, areas that are highly populated with people and devices often suffer with performance issues caused by the network being at capacity.
But a 5G tower can support far more — up to one million devices at any one time. This capacity boost means that businesses will be able to have far more devices on the network than ever before. Not only does this include their product inventory, but it can also include delivery vans and lorries, on-site forklifts, and other essential tools needed in day-to-day operations. More precise planning therefore becomes faster and easier, minimising unscheduled delays and maximising use of available equipment. Security is enhanced too, with a reduced risk of goods being lost or stolen.
A more comprehensive view
Alongside being able to track more devices, we’ll also be able to gather much more comprehensive information for each one. Where you might previously only receive location information, developments in sensor technology mean that far more parameters can be measured quickly and cost-effectively.
Temperature and humidity sensors and live video feeds are just a few possibilities. Ultimately, these sensors will allow logistics companies to guarantee the quality of their service. This is particularly relevant for transporting perishables such as medicines or chemicals, which can be easily damaged by inadequate storage conditions.
Overcoming staff shortages
Lastly, the development of 5G-enabled autonomous vehicles could be advantageous to tackling skill shortages. With too few qualified drivers available, others have had to take on the pressure. Often, this can lead to drivers working for longer hours than they should or without taking proper breaks.
A vehicle using 5G-enabled technology could drive autonomously for certain periods, such as on the motorway, giving the driver more time to rest without losing any time on the road. It’s even possible that future drivers won’t be in the cab at all. Instead, they could be driving the lorry remotely either from the office or the comfort of their own home, thanks to the low latencies offered by 5G.
It’s clear that 5G isn’t just a gimmick — it can offer serious real benefits for logistics companies of all shapes and sizes. Offering improved visibility in real-time across all levels of logistics operations, 5G could be the missing piece in achieving a truly robust and joined-up supply chain.