Return to port: showcasing the possibilities of 5G in Port of Antwerp and beyond

Last year, we reported on the advances being made by Port of Antwerp with its new 5G standalone-powered Industry 4.0 campus network. The project has continued to go from strength to strength, powering innovation and new ideas for the port, its customers and its partners. What’s new at the Port of Antwerp?

Europe’s second-largest port made innovation the central proposition of its 5G standalone (5G SA) campus network project, with a desire to create and implement fresh ideas to keep the port at the cutting edge and give it a competitive advantage. Pilot projects included connected tugboats that could stream real-time video and images and other data, like radar and sonar, to the port’s central control room. This had a tangible business benefit of enabling the port to increase the throughput of ships each day.

Furthermore, tenants in the port leveraged the 5G network to streamline their own operations and make hazardous tasks safer. For instance, a chemical company used augmented reality (AR) solutions around its site for safer machine inspections.Another chemical company leveraged computer vision and AI to assist fault detection in high-voltage cables.

Co-innovating next-generation use cases

Following these successful trials, Orange Belgium has opened its first permanent Orange 5G Lab in Antwerp. The lab takes Orange Belgium expertise around 5G Industry 4.0 and blends it with Port of Antwerp co-innovation use cases to create new concepts and drive business value.

The lab initiative also enables Orange to expand its ecosystem comprising partners, customers and start-ups, an ongoing exercise that helps drive co-innovation. The project is based in The Beacon in Antwerp, a dedicated innovation hub where Orange is demonstrating 5G SA capabilities.

Early proofs of concept being developed and showcased at the Orange Lab include a human/robot co-working use case and an autonomous train. The former features a robotic arm that leverages the ultra-reliability and low latency of the 5G SA network and is controlled by smart glasses connected to the Orange 5G network. It also uses AR capabilities to visualize interactions between human workers and the robot. These types of collaborative robots (cobots) will be valuable in Industry 4.0 work scenarios, such as ports, where they will work side by side with humans to perform tasks, potentially hazardous operational work and automated inspections.

The latter use case focuses on autonomous driving on rails, a project developed in partnership with start-up OTIV. It features a train equipped with cameras and sensors plus an AI engine that assists the train driver by automatically detecting any obstacles in front of the train and subsequently alerting or stopping it. The Orange 5G SA network is ideally suited to providing the required bandwidth, reliability and latency that can connect the front cameras and driver console to enable safer operations.

According to International Maritime Organization research, three-quarters of port operators believe automation is critical to maintaining competitiveness in the next three to five years. A further 65% of port operators consider automation to be key to achieving operational security and efficiency. Initiatives like the Orange 5G Lab and its innovative new use cases, married to projects like Port of Antwerp proving the efficacy of 5G SA networks, are demonstrating the way forward in Industry 4.0 operations.

Everyone is welcome

The new Orange 5G Lab site also hosts multiple types of certified 5G devices, including routers, smartphones, tablets, smart glasses and cameras, to help enhance the development of 5G services in the event of compatible hardware being unavailable.

Orange is inviting customers, prospects and partners alike to visit the lab and find out for themselves just how valuable it can be for developing and testing 5G solutions to power digital innovation. The growing network of Orange 5G Labs has already hosted 140 companies who have explored 5G possibilities, and the new Belgium site is set to continue that exciting progress.

For more information, read the press release and use cases about the Orange 5G Lab in Antwerp. Then watch video use cases of Port of Antwerp’s use of a connected tugboat; Helicus, a project to deliver medical supplies via drone in Belgium; and polymer manufacturer Covestro’s use of augmented reality for safer, more efficient processes.

Steve Harris

I’ve been writing about technology for around 15 years and today focus mainly on all things telecoms - next generation networks, mobile, cloud computing and plenty more. For Futurity Media I am based in the Asia-Pacific region and keep a close eye on all things tech happening in that exciting part of the world.