As technology continues to evolve, the world has seen a marked increase in the inter-connectivity of everything from home appliances to industrial equipment. Accordingly to the World Economic Forum, the number of Internet of Things (“IoT”) devices is expected to exceed 20 billion later this year. Many of these devices will be connected within the industrial sector, a trend that is often referred to as Industry 4.0, a subset of the fourth industrial revolution.
Primer on 5G and IoT
The IoT is a collection of interconnected physical devices across the internet that exchange information with each other and collect information from the environment, creating a network where objects interact in real-time. Beyond home appliances and self-driving cars, the possibilities of IoT devices are virtually limitless: factory automation, remote healthcare services and “smart” cities, to name a few.
The potential of IoT is heavily dependent on a powerful internet connection. On a 5G network, latency (i.e., the time between when information is sent and when it is received) is greatly reduced in comparison to the current 4G network, which is widely used in Canada and elsewhere. It is expected that 5G internet will be 20 times faster than current internet speeds, rendering a larger IoT ecosystem a likely reality in the near future. While the technology is not yet available in Canada, the first 5G network infrastructure has been rolled out in Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal by one of Canada’s leading telecommunications companies in anticipation of the release of 5G smartphone devices later this year.
As promising as 5G and IoT may be in terms of the technological benefits, as with any new technology, there are legal challenges to be considered. We outline below some of the potential issues with respect to privacy, cybersecurity and product liability that organizations should be aware of in the context of 5G and IoT.