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UK’s largest port to deploy 5G and IoT tech

Felixstowe Port will use 5G-enabled Internet of Things (IoT) sensors to predict maintenance of the port’s quay cranes

Felixstowe port in Suffolk, England

The port of Felixstowe, the UK’s largest container port, has announced it will be the site of the government's next 5G Testbeds and Trials programme (5GTT).

Launched in 2018 by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), 5GTT aims to accelerate the deployment of 5G networks in order to maximise the technology’s productivity and efficiency benefits, creating new business opportunities and encouraging inward investment.

Suffolk's Felixstowe port, with the help of its consortium members Three UK, Blue Mesh Solutions, and the University of Cambridge, will use 5G-enabled Internet of Things (IoT) sensors to predict maintenance of the port’s quay cranes. The technology will also provide communications for remote control yard cranes.

This will allow port workers to maximise the use of cranes while reducing the high costs associated with emergency repairs and day-to-day maintenance. As opposed to its predecessor 4G, the 5G network is capable of handling the vast amounts of data used to train the algorithms required in these case scenarios.

Port of Felixstowe head of Information Services, Karen Poulter, said that the project will include fitting six quay cranes with IoT sensors “to understand the stresses and strains placed on them by day-to-day operation”.

“Using 5G to transmit the data enables these systems to operate in real-time which could enable 'in the moment' safety-critical applications. Using the data generated by the IoT sensors and linking it to the actual activity on the crane together with previous maintenance records, Cambridge University is developing an algorithm to predict equipment failure and suggest the optimum time to maintain the equipment,” she added.

Work on the project has already begun, with Three trialling the 5G network against these use cases, and is expected to be completed in September 2022.

Commenting on the announcement, Digital Infrastructure minister Julia Lopez said that 5G “has huge potential to revolutionise a wide range of UK industries and 5G Ports is just one testbed the government is funding to help achieve this”.

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"It's incredible to see our £200 million investment in innovative 5G tech is empowering Britain's biggest and busiest container port to explore new ways of driving efficiency, improving safety and supporting the UK's post-Brexit status as a global trading nation,” she added.

In January 2021, as part of the 5GTT programme, DCMS awarded £28 million of investment to nine nationwide 5G projects that included trailing 5G-powered cargo ports, as well as improving visitor experiences at the O2 Arena, MK Dons stadium, and the Eden Project.

Three months later, the Port of Southampton became Verizon's first private 5G customer in Europe, using the technology to allow secure private wireless data network across selected areas within the East and West docks of the port.

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