Business

BT brings 5G future to Belfast Harbour with live demonstrations of augmented and virtual reality

Belfast Harbour chief executive Joe O'Neill and BT Enterprise chief executive Gerry McQuade with harbour technician Marc McCombe, testing out a hands-free augmented reality headset

BELFAST Harbour has staged a real-time demonstration of the benefits 5G can deliver to business and industry - including how its cranes can be inspected and maintained remotely.

In a first for the UK, the demonstrations, performed over BT's public 5G network, showed two 5G-enabled applications that are being explored by the harbour as part of its vision for creating a “smart port” and an iconic waterfront for the city.

One demo showed a member of Belfast Harbour's operations team wearing an augmented reality headset connected to a 5G device.

They were able to inspect one of the harbour's cranes and receive step-by-step maintenance guidance and remote support through video collaboration with a remote expert, via an application server in the cloud.

5G provided the ultra fast speeds and reliability needed, while augmented reality solution specialists Ubimax provided the software for the headsets. The demonstration showed how maintenance activities can be simplified and improved, by delivering information directly to staff when and where they need it.

The hands-free headsets are particularly suitable in hazardous environments, where health and safety is essential, and built to work with personal protective equipment such as hard hats.

EE, part of BT Group, was the first operator to launch a 5G network in the UK, with Belfast one of six cities chosen for phase one of the roll out.

The potential industry and business benefits of 5G enabled applications are vast, from improved operational efficiency and productivity, to fast and reliable knowledge transfer and higher employee satisfaction and engagement.

The second demonstration showed a 5G immersive experience, illustrating how 5G can make virtual reality “boundary-less” by allowing geographically dispersed participants to draw virtual reality content down from the cloud.

Participants can then be connected into the same real-time, virtual presentation or training event. Content creation and event sessions are managed using the simple to use VR solution from VRtuoso. Only 5G can provide the connectivity needed for the content download and real time event interaction.

Immersive experiences have the potential to transform marketing and training activities. They enable organisations like Belfast Harbour, with large fixed infrastructures, to take the business to the customer, letting them experience the environment and services in a much more captivating and immediate way.

They can also be a powerful training tool - an immersive 360-degree experience makes the brain feel like the user has experienced a situation, creating a memory that leads to higher levels of engagement and retention.

Gerry McQuade, chief executive of BT's Enterprise unit, said: “We're delighted to be working with Belfast Harbour, Ubimax and VRtuoso to explore the benefits that 5G can bring to the port and to the city of Belfast.

“Over the next 15 years, 5G technologies are expected to contribute $2.2 trillion to the global economy. It will deliver far more than enhanced mobile broadband services and will have a far bigger impact in the enterprise space, by transforming entire industries.

“But 5G can't be viewed in isolation. It is a vital component of a brand-new digital ecosystem comprising the Internet of Things, data analytics, AI, mobile edge computing, content and cloud infrastructure.

“The demonstrations we've shown are a powerful illustration of what 5G can do for business, both here in Northern Ireland and across the UK. They've shown that 5G will be the catalyst for a revolution in how technology supports people, enables workplaces and simplifies operations.”

Joe O'Neill, chief executive of Belfast Harbour added: “Working with BT on this initiative has opened our eyes to a whole new world of 5G possibilities. We have a strong ambition and motivation to become the world's best regional port and create an iconic waterfront district for Belfast, making it an attractive place to live, work, visit and invest in.

“This has given us a real appetite to continue exploring how 5G enabled applications will help us transform the port and Belfast's waterfront, boost trade and make an even more significant contribution to Northern Ireland's economy.”

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