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The UK’s first standalone 5G network powers up Milton Keynes

7 June 2021

The UK’s first standalone 5G network is now up and running in Milton Keynes – powering up robots, medical devices, driverless cars, and energy saving devices to keep residents healthy and the city moving and sustainable.

MK:5G, awarded Local Growth Funding (LGF) by the South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership (SEMLEP) in 2018, is now live and operating.

Via its MK:5G Accelerator programme, managed by Milton Keynes Council and led by Connected Places Catapult, businesses from across the UK are now trialling this next generation of mobile internet connection in Milton Keynes, using the new 5G to do everything from managing traffic flow and powering up driverless vehicles, to enabling patients to be monitored without having to see a specialist or leave their homes.

Hilary Chipping, Chief Executive of SEMLEP, said: “This SEMLEP investment has put Milton Keynes is an incredible position, enabling businesses in the city to advance and deploy real solutions to issues and challenges that affect us all. Thanks to MK:5G’s success and innovation, the project has attracted a lot of positive attention and secured additional investment from government.”

Connected Places Catapult Chief Technology Officer, Mark Westwood said: “The companies chosen to pilot the 5G technology cover a diverse range of product offerings and we are excited by what we are already seeing them achieve, utilising the 5G to power up their mobility, health and wellbeing, low carbon and data projects.”

Darko Atijas, Managing Director of True Altitude, said “Running the MK:5G programme and working closely with innovative SMEs solving tomorrow’s problems has been a fantastic experience. Providing bespoke business coaching and growth planning, investor introductions, workshops, seminars, and targeted mentoring sessions has seen our cohort secure commercial outcomes and an enhanced product offering. Whether that be general business development or fundraising, it’s been rewarding to support these pioneering SMEs in reaching the next stage of their journey.”

Brian Matthews, Head of Transport Innovation at Milton Keynes Council, added: “This is a huge and important step in Milton Keynes’ journey to becoming a cleaner, greener and a smarter city. The new technology brings several significant benefits, ranging from managing traffic flow to providing better healthcare. The project has been a fantastic example of collaboration between Milton Keynes Council, SEMLEP and some of the UKs leading technology companies.”

Here are a few of the businesses trialling MK:5G technology to progress innovative projects and products in Milton Keynes:

  • Fotech: Smart traffic management in Milton Keynes to address congestion and improve road safety and air quality.
  • Kar-go: A state-of-the-art self-driving delivery bot providing contact-free delivery.
  • Imperium Drive: rolling out and commercialising one of the UK’s most advanced remote driving technologies for autonomous vehicles.
  • Briteyellow: A new app and wearable smart device for vulnerable and elderly people, designed to save lives.
  • WarnerPatch: Reducing emergency surgeries and hospital re-admissions for patients with cancer and chronic illnesses.

MOBILITY:

Fotech: One of the businesses selected to pilot MK:5G technology is Fotech, whose advanced infrastructure monitoring technology enables smart traffic management and high-value asset protection.

In Milton Keynes, thanks to access to this 5G network, Fotech will be piloting its fibre-enabled, Distributed Acoustic Sensing (DAS) technology along city roads from this summer - to monitor the health of roads and driver behaviour.

Stuart Large, Product Line Director and Business Development at Fotech, said: “We are excited to be installing our technology in Milton Keynes to monitor traffic flow and road health. We would like to demonstrate how our technology can be used to reduce congestion and the resultant emissions and fuel consumption, improve road safety, and identify any road defects – ideally before they become visible.

“We plan to integrate our technology with the city’s cameras and other sensors and data sources available in the 5G data hub to build a complete picture, that we will allow us to explore applications such as the prioritisation of public buses, detection of stopped vehicles that cause a hazard, improvement of parking management and improvements in highway maintenance.

"We have a long-term commitment to Milton Keynes and aim to address congestion and improve road safety and air quality. We also plan to monitor the city’s autonomous vehicles and look at how the data we acquire can complement their onboard sensors to make sure they operate efficiently and safely.

By providing data for highway maintenance programmes, Fotech aims to provide cost saving to the council which in turn will be better for road users, as there will be more preventative works and less road closures.

The DAS technology converts standard telecom fibre optic cables into a network of state-of-the-art sensors, enabling cities such as Milton Keynes to continuously monitor city infrastructure – in real-time and on a much more detailed level, while maintaining anonymity to its citizens since the sensors do not identify individual details.

Fotech’s DAS technology is widely used by pipeline operators, providing accurate intelligence to ensure pipelines are protected and operating safely.

Another area of its expertise is cable monitoring - whether protecting against copper cable theft or data interception or locating cable strikes or faults thereby accelerating repairs.

Kar-go: This state-of-the-art self-driving delivery bot, built by the Academy of Robotics, uses artificial intelligence and a specially developed package-management system to provide contact-free delivery.

Kar-go looks set to become a familiar delivery vehicle on the streets of Milton Keynes, with the Academy of Robotics selected to pilot and test the city’s new 5G technology.

William Sachiti, CEO and founder of Academy of Robotics, said: “Kar-go shows how driverless delivery vehicles could eventually become a common site on our streets, delivering parcels directly to homes.

“Having incredible Wi-Fi connection, thanks to MK:5G, will mean we can control remotely and monitor every aspect of what we are seeing. Kar-go is designed to travel on unmarked as well as marked roads and thanks to our unique vision system our electric vehicle is capable of delivering packages and parcels to addresses not just in city-centres, but also to suburban and rural locations.“

Capable of driving at 60mph and covering 60 miles (more than the average daily delivery round) fully loaded on a single charge, this type of electric delivery bot could dramatically reduce the environmental impact of parcel deliveries.

Kar-go has been designed as a green alternative to diesel delivery vans, which will enable logistics companies and retailers to keep delivery costs down, whilst providing a more convenient customer experience by delivering on demand.

It focuses on the small, shoe-boxed sized parcels, where delivery costs (which can account for a third of the cart value) put increasing pressure on margins for both retailers and logistics companies.

The vehicle will be able to drive itself to and from the sender and recipient’s address and hand-over the parcel autonomously using its on-board robotics.

Imperium drive Connected and autonomous mobility is the focus for Imperium Drive, a London-based company that will be using the 5G technology in Milton Keynes to trial, roll out and commercialise UK’s first remote driving technology for autonomous vehicles.

The technology, also referred to as ‘teleoperation’, allows a human operator to remotely connect to and drive any automated vehicle using live video and sensor feeds over a cellular network – providing the ultimate fall-back layer for safe, secure, and reliable deployment of autonomous vehicles.

Koosha Kaveh, Co-Founder & CEO of Imperium Drive, said: "Autonomous mobility is set to be worth $500 billion across the globe by the year 2025 and it is the development of remote driving technology that will be the essential ingredient to unlock this huge opportunity

"That is where we come in and, thanks to the MK:5G project, we are looking forward to trialling our technology with various automated vehicles across Milton Keynes later this year. This will enable us to commercialise our technology and, in so doing, we will become the first company in the UK to offer on-road teleoperation solution for autonomous fleet operators."

Koosha is keen to stress that autonomous vehicles are not viable without remote human assistance during their operations. There may not be a physical driver in the car, but there will always be the need for a remote operator to supervise it from a command centre and, when needed, taking control.

Remote human assistance is therefore vital to the roll out of all autonomous vehicles and Milton Keynes, thanks to Imperium Drive and its access to 5G, will be at the forefront.

HEALTH

Briteyellow: A new app and wearable smart device designed to prevent indoor accidents and save lives is set to be rolled out in Milton Keynes later this year.

Briteyellow, a Cranfield based company which specialises in interactive and wireless communications, will be using the city’s new 5G technology to trial its BriteCare device in Milton Keynes care and residential homes.

The device tracks the movements of vulnerable and elderly people in their homes and uses Artificial Intelligence to identify anomalies and send alerts to carers.

The system is made up of an app and wrist sensor, which looks similar to a watch.

Briteyellow founder and CEO Fredi Nonyelu explained: “We are all about making indoor spaces smart and this new device will allow us to monitor the wellbeing of vulnerable and elderly people in indoor settings. Put simply, it will reduce accidents and save lives. BriteCare will enable early intervention and bring peace of mind and assurance for both carers and people in need.”

Fredi added: “It is thanks to the new 5G technology that we are trialling this in Milton Keynes. 5G means we will be able to provide a secure system to transfer medical data. The speed of 5G also means we can be confident that if a message is sent it will be received and read.”

WarnerPatch: A device designed to predict disease evolution to reduce emergency re-admissions and surgery is set to be trialled in Milton Keynes.

WarnerPatch has designed a new product that reliably measures a person’s tissue health, with remote monitoring allowing patients not needing to see a medical expert or leave their own home.

The company, which includes a multi-disciplinary team of clinicians, engineers, and business experts, is committed to designing and developing smart connected products and solutions that will help patients and their families.

Dr Melissa Berthelot explained: "Our product uses our proprietary sensor placed on the body, which detects tissue health. Data goes back to the treating clinical staff and patient which means that although patients are not in control of their disease, they are in control of monitoring themselves from home and this is truly empowering.

“If the sensor detects a problem, it will immediately notify the patient’s medical team, for an early clinical assessment, rather than wait for the next scheduled appointment. In these cases, just one day can make a huge difference to recovery and survival.”

It is thanks to the new MK:5G technology that WarnerPatch look forward to trialling this new product in Milton Keynes within the next 18 months.

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