Real Opportunities for Businesses Across the 5G Spectrum
First published in The Scotsman
On a recent car journey, I heard a news item about farmers choosing not to sow seeds as they can’t guarantee workers will be available to harvest crops. You reap what you sow and the consequences of this possible inaction in Scotland, when over 70% of its land area is under agricultural management, is a concern.
On the same day I visited one of The Scotland 5G Centre’s five innovation hubs in Dundee for an open day to showcase the potential of 5G to local industry representatives, government agencies, SMEs and entrepreneurs. I learnt that the agricultural sector not only needed support to work the land, but also that technology could be a game-changer to automate vital stages, such as weeding, preparing the soil and harvesting.
Exchanging large amounts of data, real time in a secure manner isn’t a unique challenge to agriculture. Many business opportunities are emerging, where private 5G networks can be deployed as a site-wide communications platform to enable new, innovative ways of working. 5G allows organisations to apply for their own slice of spectrum, meaning there’s no interference issues from other users and it’s more secure by design. So, if Scotland wants a slice of this action, we’re going to have to get good at deploying 5G networks.
Understanding its importance, The Scotland 5G Centre was created to help organisations adopt this technology and the recently launched 5G Connect Hubs are a key component of helping with this engagement at a regional level, delivering local economic impact. Moreover, the investment in the 5G test beds at each location make it risk-free for companies to trial their solutions prior to purchase.
Healthcare is a particularly exciting area, where private 5G can make a real difference. Not only will it present the opportunity for devices in a hospital to communicate away from a crowded Wifi network, it offers improved security for the transfer of patient data and becomes a platform on which to further innovate and drive operational efficiencies.
Elsewhere in Healthcare, the innovative Project CAELUS (Care & Equity – Healthcare Logistics UAS Scotland) is looking to trial the UK’s first national distribution network to use drones to transport essential medicines, blood, organs and other medical supplies throughout Scotland. These remote operated aircraft require high bandwidth, real time communications for the take-off and landing phases and 5G is the only technology to meet these needs.
Advanced digital technology also supports the Scottish Government’s ambition for the renewables sector outlined in its recently published ‘Energy Strategy and Just Transition Plan.’ A site-wide 5G network in place for an offshore wind farm can support high quality camera images to transmit information about corrosion and potential defects prior to failure, improving up-time and energy generation. The same 5G network is able to gather operational metrics from each of the turbines. Augmented reality headsets can be worn by maintenance engineers conducting repairs with specialist support delivered remotely from on-shore based colleagues. This minimises the number of staff working in a hazardous environment and reduces the requirement for repeat visits when enhanced skills or knowledge are required.
It’s easy to see that with the right wireless network in place, the potential for future innovation is huge. I believe advanced digital technology such as 5G, with the support of our transformative hubs and the leadership of The Scotland 5G Centre, will enable key sectors to work smarter, be more competitive, and ultimately boost the economy. 5G is a platform on which further innovation will be born – starting with new healthy green shoots in our countryside.
Mark Hanson, Vice Chair, The Scotland 5G Centre