News / Tech

Bristol a testbed for 5G technology that could save lives

By ellie pipe, Tuesday Feb 12, 2019

Bristol is playing a leading role in applying 5G digital technology to improve safety and, ultimately, save lives.

The harbourside area has been used as a testbed for a project that uses smart networks to detect if someone has fallen into the water with pinpoint accuracy and translate the information back to a central control room to speed up the response rate.

Trials of the the 5G Smart Tourism project took place last autumn on Prince Street Bridge – a spot known for its high footfall and incidents of pedestrians falling into the harbour – when thermal cameras were set at specific ‘trigger’ entry points.

Within 36 hours, the system was triggered with someone falling into the water – in this case, members of the public were able to help the person to safety.

Julie Snell says this is an example of developing a smart solution to a real challenge

“This is a fantastic example of what a smart city can do. We’ve put Bristolians and those who visit our city at the core of what we do,” said Julie Snell, CEO of Bristol is Open, which collaborated with Bristol City Council, University of Bristol and Zeetta Networks on the project.

She continued: “We started with the problem, a real challenge that affects our people and from there we developed a relevant smart solution.

“In this case, it was with clever use of simulated 5G, Bristol’s private, city-owned fibre and wireless network and dedicated bandwidth, to show real smart city innovation that can be used across the globe and ultimately prevent lives from being lost.”

Thermal cameras were placed at key points around Prince Street Bridge

The purpose behind the 5G simulation was to trial new ways of detecting incidents in hard-to-reach places with pinpoint accuracy and to improve response rates.

Peter Anderson, Bristol City Council’s head of service said: “This trial is the first real test we’ve been able to undertake to see how we can use digitisation to improve safety.

“Using the latest in telecommunications technology in our city infrastructure that is connected to our emergency services, we’ve been able to demonstrate how effective it can be and how future 5G can be simulated and applied to protecting our citizens.

“I’m delighted with the outcomes of the trial and how smart connectivity can make an immediate and positive impact on people’s lives.”

The 5G Smart Tourism project is led by the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) and funded by The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport.

It brings together 25 organisations and will see the development of a testbed to demonstrate 5G capability, establishing the West of England as a world-leader in the development of advanced fixed and mobile communication systems.

WECA mayor Tim Bowles added: “I am proud our region is playing such a pivotal role in both the development of 5G technology and the innovative first trials of these pioneering new wireless services, which can offer real safety benefits for our communities.

“We are ambitious to help support a commercial roll out of 5G infrastructure across our region and we see 5G as having a role in helping us address mobility across the region and in helping with digital inclusion.

“We are well placed to become a smart region – we are already recognised as a centre of excellence, as home to the largest cluster of digital expertise outside London.”

The trial was carried out around the Prince Street Bridge area

Read more: Bristol overtakes London to be named UK’s smartest city

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