IoT and 5G – Shaping the Future with Wireless Communication

5 minutes read
on 18 March, 2021

5G and IoT have brought revolutionary momentum to Industry 4.0 (4IR), translating into change agents for all, but a massive competitive advantage for some.

So, how do you get into the latter category?

Although Industry 4.0 has been a ubiquitous topic for a while, the real cornerstones upon which it will be built are just gaining ground – IoT and 5G, the future of wireless communication. Internet of Things, which brought substantial acceleration to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, is set to benefit immensely from this latest development in wireless communication.

5G is more than just a generation level-up from 4G. For regular consumers, 5G would mean HD videos downloaded in seconds and better performance of bandwidth-hungry applications – a good-to-have upgrade. Whereas for the industries, 5G offers a gigantic leap toward automation, a must-have upgrade. It has the ability to drive disproportionate improvement in productivity, security, operating expenses, and speed to market through –

Latency - Ultra-low latency for critical IoT infrastructure

Capacity - Up to 1 million connected devices per square km

Speed – 20x times faster than 4G

Energy Efficiency - 90% higher efficiency, reducing IoT installations’ power consumption

Reliability - Unmatched reliability with inherent reliability enhancements

Highly responsive - And uniform customer experience


These advantages are allowing IoT to underpin significant digital value in supply chains, at shopfloors, in healthcare, and mobility, among others. The latest trends in wireless communication protocols in technologies such as 5G, LTE, 6LoWPAN, etc. have reinforced the capabilities of IoT, made it easier to adopt, and accelerated its integration into various use cases and emerging tech.

Each wave of 5G adoption is estimated to generate a higher influx of IoT devices, estimated to result in the sales of about 22 million 5G IoT units in 2030. While the initial 5G networks will be built on the 4G infrastructure, the future of wireless communication will be delivered to companies over new, densified infrastructure. This will support not just the existing use cases at scale but also unlock the potential for completely new use cases. Here’s a look at what we can expect.

Manufacturing and Industrial Automation

With high-band 5G, manufacturers have a viable way of connecting the diverse digital solutions that would ideally power the shopfloor. While traditional WiFi is hindered by a dense shopfloor setting, a private 5G network will maintain critical connectivity for some of the most sought-for industrial use cases – Automated Guided Vehicles, Process Control and Optimization, AR/VR/Mixed Reality, and AI-powered Quality Control, among others.


As channel boundaries blur for the consumers and digital reaches brick-and-mortar, consumers expect experiences powered by technologies such as Computer Vision and products like recommendation engines, which demand the low latency offered by 5G.

Although the end-goal is a frictionless hyper-personalized customer experience, the value of IoT and 5G will add across the retail value chain, from supply networks(real-time shipment tracking) to in-store consumer journey(IoT shelves, cashierless checkouts).


Cars have been evolving to get increasingly smarter, in fact smart enough to drive themselves. Yet we are mired in traffic problems in every major city.

IoT and 5G offer an out, supporting connected car use cases like vehicle-to-vehicle, vehicle-to-network, and vehicle-to-pedestrian - for autonomous navigation through busy streets.


As COVID-19 demonstrated, healthcare can see a dramatic change in quality of patient care with remote patient monitoring, enabled by IoT and 5G. Not only does remote monitoring with these technologies bring real-time patient updates, it offers healthcare professionals an integrated view of their operations and patient response.

Additionally, AI can leverage the instant data brought by IoT and 5G for real-time insights and enable critical patient care decisions.

A crucial fact to understand is that all the wonderful potential of this latest trend in wireless communication and IoT will amount to results only if businesses overcome the inertia against aggressively adopting both. This involves two elements - escaping pilot purgatory and not letting the means become the end. A common problem with IoT initiatives is pilot purgatory – a state of suspension for IoT pilot projects where they neither move forward nor justify the initial investment. This begs the question, if not pilots then how can we test and scale 5G IoT use cases.

The answer has lies with the World Economic Forum’s Global Lighthouse Network – a community of production sites and facilities (known as Lighthouses) that have shown remarkable dexterity and results in the adoption and integration of technologies fueling Industry 4.0(4IR). These Lighthouses differ from contemporaries based on their successful implementation of Industry 4.0 technologies at scale. Not only have they documented their successful use cases, but they also elaborate on the best methodologies to inculcate the latest developments in wireless communication and IoT in their operations. Many of these use cases are based on pragmatic utilization of existing infrastructure and can seed/accelerate your own MVP development. They exemplify the technology adoption as well as the management innovation that should concur with IoT and 5G usage for truly successful implementations.

The work done by Lighthouses demonstrates that their slower counterparts simply need the right strategy to deploy technologies such as IoT and 5G at scale. It also serves as a caveat that if these counterparts do not adapt quickly, they will fall behind the 4IR leaders of tomorrow by a wide divide in 5G IoT value capture.

As Lighthouses focus on the key goals of customer centricity and connectivity within and outside the organization, they leave no doubt about 5G and IoT being the most powerful 4IR technologies. But their key focus remains not on upgrading their manufacturing infrastructure alone but rather enhancing their operational capabilities. In the end, they view IoT and 5G as means to the greater goals of improved throughputs.

A successful 5G IoT installation culminates from an in-depth understanding of 5G, its current state, and the diverse use cases of IoT that it can enable. Digital transformation champions can provide customized expert help in decoding both these technologies and their implications for your business.

Looking to accelerate your 5G IoT projects and scale them to success?