5G IN ACTION: AUTOMATION & DIGITAL TECHNOLOGIES

Where has 5G been deployed to enable automation and digital technologies?

The 5G MK project is integrating CAV services with smart parking at locations across the Stadium MK area, improving access and increasing site efficiency. Autonomous vehicles will operate around the perimeter of the site transporting guests, while autonomous pods will be used for transporting hotel guest luggage and deliveries. Remote technology will then guide the vehicles back to their starting position, ready to pick up the next delivery.  These services will free up employee time and increase site efficiency.    

The 5G Ports project based in the Port of Felixstowe is using 5G to improve the performance of remote control yard cranes. This is expected to increase efficiency, safety and develop new skills amongst the port’s workforce. In Italy, the Port of Livorno is working with Ericsson to demonstrate automated remote control of unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) for loading and unloading operations in the port area. It is expected that the UGVs—remotely controlled by a human operator—will cooperate by working in swarms, exploiting the technology of cloud and distributed computing. Their deployment is anticipated to lower vessel completion time, improve personnel safety and improve overall operational efficiencies. Similarly, Brussels airport is deploying 5G for autonomous ground support equipment. It is hoped that this will speed up the time it takes to turn around planes and improve worker safety by removing people from hazardous environments.

Livorno is utlising AR to optimise vessel berthing, which should speed up the time taken to moor each ship and reduce human error. The technology is likewise being used by organisations across the sector to support maintenance activities. At Hamburg International Airport and Haneda Airport in Tokyo, 5G is addressing skill gaps. While conducting maintenance activities, technicians can access remote experts through augmented and virtual reality, giving them full visibility of repairs and problems through real-time sharing of 4k images and 3D reconstructions. 

Through 5G MoNArch, the Port of Hamburg is also using 5G to support their engineering team through augmented and virtual reality applications. Engineers are assisted in their day-to-day work with easy mobile access to construction plans and information on buildings, in addition to other technical installations within the port area; this is made possible by on-demand provisioning of the available data and documentation through AR/VR applications. The equipment is connected to a central application server through the 5G mobile network, using a dedicated network slice.  

Similarly, the Port of Rotterdam is equipping Shell engineers with industrial tablets connected to 5G. These can be used to provide augmented reality information and support maintenance activities, such as temperature or pressure of the process installation. Maintenance personnel will also be equipped with 5G smart helmets. This allows workers to stay in touch via video and audio with experts and immediately decide which repairs are needed, speeding up the time taken for maintenance activities. 

Organisations are looking at how 5G can enable autonomous or remote operation of drones that can be flown beyond the line of sight. This opens up opportunities to speed up inspections and safety checks over large areas, as well as minimise workers’ exposure to hazardous conditions (something Network Rail is exploring). It can also be instrumental in increasing operational efficiencies within last mile deliveries. UPS Flight Forward is exploring this, with the development of a “Workhorse”: a delivery van with a hatch in the roof that can release drones to complete the last 100 yards of deliveries. 5G’s low latency, reliability and location awareness will enable this vision to be realised and scaled.   

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