How 5G will change Birmingham in real time

5G in Birmingham

Written by Dr Adel Aneiba, Associate Professor in Internet of Things (IoT), Birmingham City University

Limitless opportunities

5G will change how the wireless network works, completely restructuring the current existing architecture. It can also play a major role in other types of critical applications that require high bandwidth, so there’s a lot of interesting scenarios where 5G can be effectively implemented. 4G has been unable to satisfy the needs and demands of users, organisations and businesses, as we need good bandwidth, good coverage, reliability and security. 5G promises all of that.

At Birmingham City University, myself, my colleagues and the postgraduate researchers I am supervising have been conducting innovative research that will benefit the city, the wider region and the country, particularly once 5G is more widely rolled out over the next two-to-three years.

Saving lives and changing communities

A recent project saw me work with Coventry University, the West Midlands Combined Authority, Birmingham City Airport and Coventry Airport on the future of drones in smart cities. Drones need to be able to film, record and stream live data of events and incidents, but the current 4G infrastructure means this is not possible. We concluded that 5G will help boost the use of drones in smart cities, which will be a complete game changer. Think of the benefits to local community organisations that drones will have – they can be deployed to capture real time footage, which can be streamed to firefighters, police, hospitals and more. This is going to be particularly vital in more remote and rural areas. And because of 5G’s ultra-reliable connectivity and low latency, control rooms will receive this footage quickly and reliably.

Low cost, high gains

Another project I am working on is called Birmingham In Real Time, in which we work again with West Midlands Combined Authorities on smart cities. At the moment, they are using a very expensive, superannuated and complex 2G system. I have proposed to them that we introduce low-cost chips, integrate them and monitor streets in real time. By being able to monitor and gather data in real time themselves, local authorities will no longer have to outsource to private companies – senior reps from said organisations have already told me that if we succeed with the project, it’ll save them unimaginable amounts of money. This is money that can then be better invested elsewhere. 5G’s wider rollout will enable us to make this impact.

Capturing events and incidents in real time will also be pivotal in the introduction of autonomous cars. The communications between cars (vehicle-to-vehicle communications), cars and services, between the driver and the car – 5G will be able to handle all of that data, and make our roads and communities safer and more efficient.

Utilising 5G for SMEs and businesses

I am also looking at how we can integrate LPWAN (low-power wide-area network) into 5G. Some see these two as competitors, but I believe we can utilise the plus points of both. LPWAN is designed for low power devices and low bandwidth, while 5G is obviously the opposite. However, this means that 5G admittedly will have a rather complex architecture, something which may be of no use to local SMEs that want something easy to deploy and configure. I am investigating how we can switch between LPWAN and 5G, particularly within smart cities, so they can work in harmony with one another.

At first, it may be a slightly expensive investment, but the long-term benefits of 5G will more than make up for it. For SMEs and individual developers, you won’t need to pay that much as you can use the infrastructure put in place by big companies and the government.

Making a positive impact

5G will play a major role in our research work. In fact, it already has – in our Centre, research is now largely focused around 5G. When I heard that the West Midlands would be a testbed, I began thinking ahead and considering how we could utilise this by listing possible research projects. We look forward, in terms of research, to how we can use 5G for more applied research around the region and try to solve problems for the local community and authorities, as well as other organisations. For example, I work with IBM around blockchain and IoT. As an IBM coordinator, my plan is to build joint software projects over the 5G infrastructure. Collaborating with them in a wider sense is going to be very exciting.

I like to make a difference – I want my research to make a positive contribution. For me, if the research I am conducting doesn’t have an impact, then there’s no research – I aim to make real impact on peoples’ lives, on the economy, on technology and more. Using 5G to solve local issues is highly important, from economic to social concerns and more. That’s my key driver.

This blog was originally published here.


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