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Port of Tyne lands BT 5G private network to boost smart port ambitions

UK telco teams with leading North East of England port to develop services based on private 5G network to power applications including robotics and autonomous vehicles, artificial intelligence, and internet of things

Hot on the heels of forging a partnership with Ericsson to provide commercial 5G private networks for the UK market, BT is to install a new 5G private network and other surveillance and smart technology to enable the Port of Tyne to advance its ambition to become a world-class “smart port”.

The Port of Tyne is one of the UK’s major deep-sea ports – operating in bulk and conventional cargo, car terminals, cruise and ferry, and port-centric logistics and estates. Entirely self-financing, it receives no government funding, is run on a commercial basis and reinvests all profits back into the port for the benefit of all of its stakeholders. During a decade of development, the Port of Tyne has invested more than £130m in diversifying its operations to handle a growing range of commodities.

Building on the port’s in-house capability – the 2050 Maritime Innovation Hub – the Port of Tyne is now implementing a new hybrid fibre, 4G and 5G private network to build a future-proofed digital technology infrastructure. Once live later in 2022, the new private network infrastructure is intended to provide fast and low latency connectivity across the port’s entire estate, opening up the potential for the development and implementation of both established and emerging technology.

Digital transformation is at the heart of the Port’s Tyne 2050 strategic plan. Real-time 5G connectivity means commercial information can be captured to enable data-led decision-making to drive efficiencies across the business, benefiting customers and the port’s own operations.

The Port of Tyne’s technology and innovation team has demonstrated a series of initial and potential use cases. Two of these are recommended for immediate use – the quayside operational optimisation programme and OCR container tracking – with scope to expand 5G coverage for future use cases in years to come.

The port sees the that among the key benefits of implementing 5G is having a connectivity platform upon which other innovative technology can be built for managing remote operations and reducing associated fossil fuel consumption. The low latency network’s faster data processing and responsiveness provides support for autonomous or remote working.

It also sees the benefit of having greater load capacity with the potential to connect thousands of devices simultaneously in a small area, for example, using smart meters and internet of things (IoT) sensors to monitor conditions and identify inefficient processes which can be immediately addressed.

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The port believes there is potential for offering new, innovative services and business-orientated use cases, which will attract customers seeking leading edge technology services including artificial intelligence applications and autonomous vehicles with a reduced need for expensive ground works and ducting by offering wireless connectivity across the estate. Improved business decision-making by extracting more data in real time, from plant and machinery to identify efficiency savings, reduces idling time and cut unnecessary mileage.

As part of the Tyne 2050 strategy, the port is creating a clean energy test bed and will work with entrepreneurs wanting access to a 5G infrastructure to validate innovations and services to benefit the wider UK logistics sector. The Port’s 200-acre Clean Energy Park was selected for its 5G base, and Equinor will harness this enhanced capability as it operates and maintains the largest offshore wind farm at Dogger Bank from their port base.

The operational optimisation programme and OCR container tracking, both of which will significantly enhance supply chain efficiency for clients, involve the installation of black box monitoring devices on cranes and other materials handling equipment to record usage patterns, and enable a detailed performance analysis for continuous improvement programmes. The OCR container tracking application will inspect the condition of containers and monitor entry and exit to the port.

Commenting on the deployment, Matt Beeton, CEO of the Port of Tyne said: “5G is an enabler and offers us huge potential to implement world-class technology applications and drive real progress in the port and maritime sectors. We already have a range of use case scenarios developed through the Innovation Hub and are ready to collaborate with technology companies to validate these exciting new solutions.”

Ashish Gupta, BT’s managing director for corporate and public sector, added: “We are delighted to be providing the Port of Tyne with a hybrid 4G and 5G private network and associated surveillance and smart technology, including IoT, that will make a huge difference for the port and its customers.

The secure network we have installed with Ericsson, along with our fixed fibre infrastructure, will provide the foundation to revolutionise many operations across the site – including automating processes and creating efficiencies. By leveraging the high bandwidth, low latency networks we can use surveillance cameras, advanced analytics and artificial intelligence to check for damage to containers.”

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