But lower latency and the capacity to support more devices brings increased supply chain and cybersecurity risks.
Though 5G and 6G networks could help first responders and smart city projects with more reliable communications, faster data transfer and new capabilities like intelligent edge computing, they also could introduce new threats, according to a federal report.
To aid public sector officials in understanding the implications of 5G, the Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate recently completed an in-depth study of technologies being deployed.
“Organizations must balance adoption of these capabilities against the risks and uncertainties in play with both technologies,” S&T Senior Tech Scout Mark Fry said.
Global deployment of 5G started in 2019, promising faster and more resilient data transfer. The new networking protocol will enable new technologies like driverless cars and autonomous delivery robots while DHS’ mission will see advancements in sensor networks and autonomous systems, researchers wrote. For state and local governments, the roll out will enable new tools for first responders like priority networks, geolocation and search-and-rescue drones.
5G’s ability to support more sensors and IoT devices could allow for better collection, processing and analysis of large amounts of data in real time, the report said. With wider adoption of 5G, surveillance teams at government facilities can deploy more cameras along U.S. borders, use real-time tracking to detect smuggling efforts more quickly, or respond to rescue beacons for migrants in distress.
However, 5G also presents an increased risk for untrusted or counterfeit components to be introduced, allowing malicious actors the opportunity to exploit valuable information and intelligence. End-user systems, such as government computers, phones and other devices, could be compromised as a result.
6G deployment is scheduled to begin in 2030, but as that happens, state and local entities will move toward a fully digital and connected environment, the report said. The improvements will lead to increased network efficiency, allowing for optimization through artificial intelligence and powerful edge computing, leading to faster service in remote locations and dynamic response to network demands through cloud-hosted networking.
For autonomous vehicles, 6G’s wider bandwidth capabilities can improve intelligent transportation with better real-time information. Connected vehicles can be equipped with radar that enables them to sense the positioning of objects in their immediate surroundings and detect potential obstacles. This information would be uploaded via a wireless connection to a central network, which could guide the vehicle’s driving. Broader intelligent transportation systems like traffic pattern tracking will have use cases for first responder operations as well.
However, S&T notes that before a secure 6G deployment can be rolled out, legacy security vulnerabilities will need to be addressed, as more devices can introduce a larger attack surface within system architectures for cyber criminals to exploit.