The WECA led 5G Smart Tourism project has announced the successful first phase test of its 5G simulation safety demonstration designed to help protect Bristolians and visitors to Bristol around the city’s Harbourside. Undertaken in Autumn 2018, the project achieved this first significant milestone using the University of Bristol’s 5G delivery, Bristol is Open’s Network and devices with network slicing from Zeetta Networks, where waterside safety information was relayed to a central control point, the Bristol Operations Centre, with onward connection to the appropriate Emergency Service.

Most major cities throughout the world have established waterways running through their cityscape and potential incidents of falling in the water can have an impact on a city’s emergency services and operational control rooms. The purpose behind the 5G simulation was to trial new ways of detecting incidents with pinpoint accuracy and to improve response rates.

Bristol is Open alongside Bristol City Council, University of Bristol and Zeetta Networks collaborated to run the trial which began on 31st October 2018 by Prince’s Street Bridge, an area known for its high footfall and incidences of pedestrians falling into the harbour.  Thermal cameras were set up at specific ‘trigger’ entry points, which serve as barrier lines on the harbour wall, and connected to the Council’s main operations centre to alert the appropriate emergency services. The unique and effective simulation of 5G provided access to hard-to-reach places, such as the harbour wall, mobility and bandwidth slicing to guarantee performance with low latency (which allows processing of a high volume of data with minimal delay).

Within 36 hours of the trial starting, the system was triggered with a pedestrian falling into the harbour. This was picked up on the system, generated alerts and was recorded at the time.  As it happened during the day, members of the public were able to help the person out of the harbour, so no further action was needed.  It is interesting to note that even during the day and with several people to assist recovering the person was a fairly intensive task.

Speaking about the trial, Peter Anderson, Bristol City Council’s Head of Service said:

“Citizen and visitor safety is a priority for us. Water safety may not be uppermost in our minds as we work, visit and enjoy Bristol and yet we are surrounded by waterways as we walk through the city centre. The Harbourside, in particular, has a naturally high footfall of people using it day and night. This trial is the first real test we’ve been able to undertake to see how we can use digitisation to improve safety. Using the latest in telecommunications technology in our city infrastructure that is connected to our emergency services, we’ve been able to demonstrate how effective it can be and how future 5G can be simulated and applied to protecting our citizens. I’m delighted with the outcomes of the trial and how smart connectivity can make an immediate and positive impact on people’s lives.”

The 5G Smart Tourism project is led by the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) and funded by The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport. It brings together 25 organisations and will see the development of a testbed to demonstrate 5G capability, establishing the West of England as a world leader in the development of advanced fixed and mobile communication systems.

West of England Mayor Tim Bowles said “I am proud our region is playing such a pivotal role in both the development of 5G technology and the innovative first trials of these pioneering new wireless services which can offer real safety benefits for our communities. We are ambitious to help support a commercial rollout of 5G infrastructure across our region and we see 5G as having a role in helping us address mobility across the region and in helping with digital inclusion.

“We are well placed to become a smart region – we are already recognised as a centre of excellence, as home to the largest cluster of digital expertise outside London. We are leading the way in technology and our businesses and universities are at the forefront of innovation in next-generation networks, including 5G, such as the University of Bristol Smart Internet Lab where our 5G testbed is hosted.”

Critically, the use of thermal cameras provides the right type of data for the emergency services to use with both accurate location and appropriate detection whilst protecting the privacy of the individuals as they do not deliver face recognition technology. What’s more, the 5G simulation showed the applicability of 5G beyond mobile phone bandwidth and demonstrated how 5G can be deployed safely.

Julie Snell, CEO, Bristol is Open added, “This is a fantastic example of what a smart city can do. We’ve put Bristolians and those who visit our city at the core of what we do. We started with the problem, a real challenge that affects our people and from there we developed a relevant smart solution. In this case, it was with clever use of simulated 5G, Bristol’s private, city-owned fibre and wireless network and dedicated bandwidth, to show real smart city innovation that can be used across the globe and ultimately prevent lives from being lost.”

Six partners contributed different aspects to the trial:

  • WECA: project management
  • Bristol City Council: space for the demonstration, insight, guidance and governance on use of CCTV, and use of the cities award-winning operations centre
  • Bristol is Open: access to the cities own research and development telecom network and simulated 5G network, technical skills and resource to build service connectivity and routing the data flow into the cities operations centre
  • Zeetta Networks: provision of bandwidth slicing, dedicated bandwidth provision for certain activities
  • University of Bristol: 5G Communications
  • IBI: technical QA on the waterside safety devices
  • The WECA-led 5G Smart Tourism trial involves 5G infrastructure being rolled out at the Roman Baths in Bath, M Shed, some areas of the harbourside and in and around We The Curious and Millennium Square in Bristol.

Geraint Evans