VR over 5G helps Belfast Harbour vision to become smart port

Harbour teams up with BT to deploy 5G-enabled applications including virtual reality

In what it claims is a UK first, BT has enabled 5G applications for Belfast Harbour to deploy in its vision to create a smart port and an iconic waterfront for the city.

Belfast Harbour operates, maintains and develops assets for the benefit of port customers, other stakeholders and the wider economy in the Belfast region. Its business focus is on delivering infrastructure, built assets and services to support: exporters and importers as Northern Ireland’s primary gateway to the world and its primary logistics hub; ferry and cruise ship operators; companies providing services to shippers and cargo owners; and estate tenants, both current and prospective.

Belfast was one of the first cities to be given access to BT’s public 5G network and the Harbour Company has been a partner of the telco since November 2018 in order to use the next-generation infrastructure to overcome inefficiencies in the management of its estate, such as those encountered by maintenance workers.

With partner Ubimax, BT’s technology has helped Belfast Harbour to inspect cranes and enable field workers to receive step-by-step maintenance guidance and remote support through video collaboration with a remote expert, via an application server in the cloud.

Maintenance activities can therefore be simplified and improved by delivering information directly to staff when and where they need it. The hands-free headsets used by harbour workers are particularly suitable in hazardous environments, where health and safety is essential, and are built to work with personal protective equipment such as hard hats.

Belfast Harbour has also used VRtuoso virtual reality technology over 5G to create an immersive experience, allowing users to be connected into the same real-time, virtual presentation or training event. This has enabled Belfast Harbour to take its estate to customers, enabling them to experience the environment and services it offers.

Trevor Anderson, infrastructure and business transformation director at Belfast Harbour, said only 5G networks have been able to provide the speeds and reliability the company needed.

Future applications being investigated include autonomous vessels, whereby pilots can work form the safety of an office.

Gerry McQuade, CEO of BT’s enterprise unit, said: “5G technology changes everything, but technology can only change anything if you are working with partners such as Belfast Harbour. This brings the value of 5G to life.”

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