5G will change everything.
It’s a mantra heard around the world. Much of the hype surrounding 5G has been focused on consumer products. Phones and tablets will be able to download movies in seconds; refrigerators and washing machines will pass on alerts; cars will become driverless. The list goes on.
Specific to construction, 5G’s reduced latency (faster speed) opens the door to increased robotic and remote construction operation, increased use of drones and onsite cameras, and higher levels of Building Information Modeling (BIM) functionality. 5G will enable new, sophisticated supply chain track-and-trace technologies. Building performance across various metrics will be monitored at a level never before possible.
This is the good news and there’s more to come. However, 5G’s impact requires a full examination of its implications.
For example, beyond the worksite itself, owners and developers will be forced to make 5G connectivity an integral part of their project designs. That’s because 5G signals do not carry long distances or penetrate walls as well as 3G and 4G.
Micro cell antennas and transmitters will need to be installed in close proximity across cities, highways and public areas.
Likewise, inside buildings multiple 5G antennas and transmitters will be required to meet the high connectivity expectations of occupants of ICI structures. These dedicated networks won’t be cheap. Furthermore, failure to make the right equipment decisions at the outset could result in lower levels of tenant/occupant satisfaction and require possible replacement of inadequate systems.
Cautionary reports have circulated about the security concerns associated with such ubiquitous 5G coverage — each 5G-connected device or antenna offers a new potential gateway for hackers and disrupters. Employees’ personal 5G devices will also intermingle with in-house networks requiring increased corporate data security.
Less publicized have been concerns over the potential health risks related to long-term exposure to 5G microwave transmissions. However, global awareness campaigns like Global 5G Days of Protest are taking place in North America and Europe, encouraging governments to properly study these risks before allowing 5G’s expected widespread roll out over the next five years or so.
This pressure is not being led by conspiracy theorists wearing aluminum foil hats. Hundreds of accredited technology experts, medical professionals, scientists and researchers have signed resolutions and lent their names to such organizations as Stop 5G International.
“We envision and seek to ensure a world where 5G, 6G or any other ‘G’ is replaced by safe technology that has undergone scrutiny to ensure the health and well-being of all life on the planet before being unleashed,” their website says.
Supporters draw attention to the fact that, for example, wireless devices already come with warnings from agencies such as the FCC advising users not to carry them close to their body. But they point out that agencies such as the National Frequency Agency (ANFR) of France say that carrying the devices in this common manner, like in breast or pant pockets, exposes users to microwave radiation levels up to nine times FCC maximums.
In Canada, researchers and doctors are looking beyond animal research that already links microwave radiation to DNA damage, infertility and even cancer. Dr. Riina Bray, medical director of the Environmental Health Clinic at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto, has been conducting studies with human patients currently exhibiting symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, irritability and insomnia. She and other medical professionals believe these symptoms are linked to exposure to microwave radiation. The concern is that case numbers will only increase when 5G is piled on top of current WiFi, 3G and 4G transmissions.
Meanwhile, Health Canada indicates little concern.
“As long as RF (Radio Frequency) energy levels remain below Health Canada’s RF safety guidelines, current scientific evidence supports the assertion that RF energy emissions from WiFi devices are not harmful,” their website says. “WiFi devices should be operated in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.”
As promising as the 5G future appears to be, owners, developers and contractors need to look at the full picture and ask serious questions.
John Bleasby is a Coldwater, Ont. based freelance writer. Send comments and Inside Innovation column ideas to email@example.com.