5G Innovators Target Port Logistics

Port of Qingdao
Port of Qingdao

Published Jun 27, 2019 7:39 PM by The Maritime Executive

A range of initiatives aimed at bringing the benefits of 5G to ports are underway in Asia and Europe.

5G is generally seen as the fifth generation cellular network technology that provides broadband access. Its purpose is not solely about making bandwidths larger or speeds faster, 5G will play a role in emerging Internet of Things applications and can be used for many diverse applications with different speed, response time, security and capacity requirements because it can support up to a million devices per square kilometer, while 4G supports only up to 100,000 devices per square kilometer.

Chinese 5G Laboratory

This week China Merchants Port Group Company (CMPort), China Mobile Limited Shenzhen Branch and Huawei Technologies established what they say is the first 5G intelligent innovation laboratory in the port industry at the Haixing container terminal, Shenzhen. The 5G Innovation Laboratory in Merchants Ports aims to enhance the core competitiveness of ports and help the development of the port industry in Belt and Road countries.

Kalmar Research

Also this week, Kalmar, part of Cargotec, and Long Term Evolution (LTE) network provider Ukkoverkot signed a two-year cooperation agreement with Nokia to design, build and operate a 5G-ready private LTE network reflecting an actual terminal environment which will be built for research and development purposes. Machine-to-machine communication will be tested in the new 4G/LTE environment and compared against previous wireless technologies with the focus on developing innovative business applications. 

This connectivity technique is more reliable and enables more secure communication than Wi-Fi. Private LTE provides the low latency, high-capacity connectivity combined with edge computing required for time-sensitive critical industrial applications enabling real-time analytics and video-based applications such as machine remote control.
The Nokia-built network will allow for machinery to be connected over reliable private local LTE or 5G networks, enabling automation, robotics, machine learning, analytics and real-time remote monitoring.

Last year, Kalmar, Nokia and ABB conducted industrial trials that leverage the low latency capabilities of 5G to support time-critical applications in smart electricity grid and harbor automation applications.

Singapore Initiative

In another development, M1, a subsidiary of Keppel Corporation,  has joined Infocomm Media Development Authority and PSA to test 5G technologies in Singapore. The 5G Trial Tech Call is focused on early trials of 5G-enabled innovative Smart Port use-cases, including tele-remote controlled equipment and automated guided vehicles

PSA will provide a live testing ground for the 5G technology before moving to a more widespread adoption phase of a Smart Port. The 18-month study will include tele-remote control of port equipment and enhancing Automated Guided Vehicles (AGV) operations.

Earlier this year, M1 announced that it was partnering Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore and Keppel Offshore & Marine for the test bedding of autonomous ships in Singapore waters. The collaboration leverages M1's ultra-low latency 4.5G network connectivity to establish reliable ship-to-shore communication links and to support Internet-of-Things (IoT) maritime applications.

Port of Hamburg Tests 5G

Earlier in June, the Hamburg Port Authority (HPA), Deutsche Telekom and Nokia announced that they have tested 5G for several different applications. From January 2018 to June 2019, the approximately 8,000-hectare site served as a test bed for 5G as part of the E.U. project 5G-MoNArch.

The focus of the project was on the new technology concept "Network Slicing." Under 5G, there won't be a "one size fits all network" but multiple virtual networks running simultaneously on the same common infrastructure. These networks, so-called slices, can have different characteristics tailored to meet the specific requirements of a particular application or user group. One example is a rapidly instantiated priority circuit for emergency services in the port area during a storm surge. 

Three use-cases with different network requirements were tested in the port: 

• Sensors were installed on three ships from the HPA subsidiary Flotte Hamburg GmbH & Co. KG. These sensors enable the real-time monitoring and analysis of motion and environmental data from large parts of the port area. 

• The Port Road Management Center of the HPA remotely controls the traffic flows in the port of Hamburg via a traffic light connected to the mobile network. This should help, for example, to guide trucks faster and more safely through the port area. 

• With the help of the new standard, 3D information is transmitted to an augmented reality application. The 3D glasses allow maintenance teams on site - for example on a construction site - to call up additional information such as building data or receive remote interactive support from an expert.

The project partners were able to demonstrate that complex industrial applications with diverging requirements can reliably work over a common physical infrastructure. HPA is already planning more 5G projects.

Ericsson in Qingdao

In February, Ericsson and China Unicom announced they are developing a 5G smart port system at the Port of Qingdao in China after completing a technical field trial.

The companies anticipate a reduction of up to 70 percent in labor costs with the 5G automation upgrade. In collaboration with port machinery manufacturer ZPMC, they achieved an automated ship-to-shore crane lift of a container over a 5G connection operated from a control center. The 5G connection included data traffic from more than 30 high-definition cameras as well as control data for a programmable logic controller (PLC). These operations required millisecond-level latency control signals, as well as stable, remote and real-time control, requirements which only key 5G technologies can deliver.