After the inauguration of its first laboratory in Belgium dedicated to showcasing next-generation mobile technology and the real-life application of services in October 2021, Orange Belgium, in partnership with Grand Poste, has officially opened a 5G Lab in the city of Liège.
The second Orange 5G Lab in Belgium will see use in developing and testing what the telco says will be “innovative and concrete” new 5G applications in collaboration with customers, prospects and partners. La Grand Poste is said to be located in the heart of an important economical triangle. The site – regarded as distinguishing itself as one of Wallonia’s most important and creative technological hubs – has 8,000m2 of total surface area including private offices, 200 co-working spaces and a number of multimedia studios.
Thomas Dermine, Belgian state secretary for economic recovery and strategic investments, and Karine Dussert-Sarthe, executive vice-president marketing, design and open innovation at Orange, were present at the grand opening, where Orange Belgium showcased more than eight 5G use cases.
The new Orange 5G Lab will join the telco’s international network of 16 5G Labs across Europe, which it says are fostering collaboration and innovation on an “unprecedented” level.
Orange Belgium said it was inviting all startups, scaleups and industrial players that are interested in the technology to try out the 5G functionalities and access certified equipment. The telco’s experts will support the development of new systems on 5G by furnishing all necessary information and accompanying pilot projects.
Key 5G use cases highlighted at the facility opening include augmented ramp agents, human robots and intelligent pallet movers.
Ramp agents are responsible for the loading and offloading of air cargo and to manage all ground-handling activities, and always work at high speed in various challenging weather conditions, but always safely. To power up the ramp agents’ activity in a harsh environment, an augmented worker use case was introduced with an industrial RealWear smart glass connected on a stable 5G private network.
The objective of the use case is to eliminate all paperwork for the ramp agents and to facilitate the loading and offloading process through a seamless, online, hands-free workflow process. That makes the activity efficient, error-free and safe for the agents.
The human robot-digital twin use case sees a robot performing a specific sequence in the pharma industry, such as manipulating or filling fluids in test tubes and placing them in holders. The operator monitors the process via the digital twin, which replicates and visualises exactly what the real robot is doing. To avoid the operator having to enter the robot area with the risk of contaminating the workspace, they conduct a remote assessment of the error by using augmented reality (via HoloLens) and the digital twin.
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Intelligent pallet movers have become common practice in Industry 4.0 as they have a cost advantage, remain available 24/7, generate optimal transport between warehouse and workfloor and increase safety, being equipped with collision avoidance intelligence and self-learning. Automated guided vehicles are not only autonomous, but are also connected, says Orange, and that is where 5G becomes important.
In real-time remote control, to strengthen the coordination of automated guided vehicles, 5G offers a high-speed and low-latency network for communication between these vehicles, making them robots with a high level of self-fleet organisation and cooperation.
“After the opening of our first Orange 5G Lab in Antwerp and its great success in generating a positive dynamic in the region, we are delighted to be able to develop 5G and its applications in Wallonia as well,” said Xavier Pichon, chief executive officer at Orange Belgium. “Here we will be able to facilitate the innovation and creativity of local actors and demonstrate 5G’s potential in a fully transparent manner, while basing ourselves on a first-class national and international network.
“We aim to cover 40% of the population with 5G by 2023 and 90% by 2025. Moreover, this approach supports the Walloon economic recovery plan and fits within its objectives to support startups, stimulate innovation, foster sustainability and assist training and economic development.”
La Grand Poste CEO Gérôme Vanherf added: “La Grand Poste is designed to facilitate encounters between all the players in the innovation ecosystems – startups, SMEs, large companies, academic players, investors, government authorities, the general public, and so on – and thus generate high-potential projects. Facilitating access to technological innovations such as 5G forms a part of our missions.
“Together with Orange 5G Lab, we will help everyone better understand the potential of this technology and its future concrete applications in key sectors such as health, mobility, energy transition, media, cultural and creative industries. We are convinced that this Orange 5G Lab will offer strong advantages for our community and for the broader Liège region.”