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5G application trials in Singapore are being boosted by a S$40 million grant

By Wong Chung Wee - on 28 Jun 2019, 10:30am

5G application trials in Singapore are being boosted by a S$40 million grant

One of the key uses of 5G here is in smart port management, where the operator can remotely control driverless cranes and trucks to load and unload containers, or remotely inspect machines using driverless drones. Photo: ST File

This article is contributed by Irene Tham and a version of it first appeared in The Straits Times, an SPH publication, on June 27, 2019.

A S$40 million fund has been set up to accelerate the development of next-frontier 5G applications to support Singapore's ambition to lead in the global digital economy.

One of the key uses of 5G here is in smart port management, where an operator can remotely control driverless cranes and trucks to load and unload containers, or remotely inspect machines using pilotless drones. Port operator PSA International has appointed Singtel and M1 to conduct trials, and the telcos are the first to have received a grant from the S$40 million budget to be given out over one year.

Announcing this yesterday, Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran said:

We want to be at the forefront of exporting such innovative use cases." Describing 5G networks as "a key digital infrastructure of tomorrow", he highlighted six strategic clusters where 5G applications are expected to generate the most value for Singapore in global export. They are: maritime operations, urban mobility, smart estate management, smart manufacturing, as well as government and consumer applications. 5G applications - such as driverless cars and remotely operated cranes - require constant connection without lag which only 5G networks are capable of delivering.

Ms. Apoorva Rai, executive director in the chief operating officer's office of the Bank of Singapore, explaining the bank's digital onboarding - the signing up for banking services entirely online - for private banking clients to Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran yesterday at Innovfest Unbound, the anchor event of the Smart Nation Innovations Week. Photo: Ng Sor Luan

Mr. Iswaran was speaking at the opening of the fifth annual Innovfest Unbound, the anchor event of the Smart Nation Innovations Week held at the Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre.

Trials by PSA are expected to start in the third quarter of this year. They will explore the remote operation of equipment and the use of driverless vehicles to move shipping containers round the clock between the quay side and the container yard.

Mr Ong Kim Pong, regional chief executive officer of PSA International in South-east Asia said:

"5G is expected to play a key role in Singapore's digital transformation and is aligned with PSA's strategy... to boost productivity in our current terminals and the future container port in Tuas."

Besides backing 5G experiments to boost productivity, the one-year fund will also cover the set-up of the first open center in Singapore to support the testing of consumer-type 5G applications like electronic gaming and immersive media. The open center, which will be ready by June next year, will be at the Infocomm Media Development Authority's (IMDA) existing Pixel facility in one-north.

The grant will also cover research on cyber-security solutions to keep 5G networks safe. Details will be announced later. The National Research Foundation and IMDA are behind the fund.

Exploring high-tech solutions using 5G Smart Port Management

  1. Port operator PSA International has appointed telcos Singtel and M1 to conduct trials in the third quarter of this year to explore the use of driverless vehicles to move shipping containers round the clock. This will allow PSA to load and unload more containers and turn around ships faster. The telcos will also set up trials for the remote control of port equipment such as cranes. The trials will pave the way for the building of a state-of-the-art Tuas Port, expected to open from 2021 in stages, to reinforce Singapore's position as a leading port in the region.
  2. The Port of Qingdao in China is working with China Unicom to build a 5G smart port system to remotely control cranes for lifting containers, for a start. A recently concluded trial showed that up to 70 per cent of labor costs can be saved when a port automates its operations over 5G networks, which can deliver a constant, fast connection without lag.

Smart Factory Operation

  1. The Agency for Science, Technology and Research's (A*Star) Advanced Remanufacturing and Technology Centre has signed a memorandum of understanding with Singtel and industrial estate developer JTC Corporation to integrate 5G connectivity solutions into its smart Model Factory in Jurong. The factory is a test-bed for advanced manufacturing tools, including smart sensors for tracking the location of driverless vehicles on factory floors. The trials will also explore the use of virtual reality teaching tools for training factory operators in, say, equipment maintenance.
  2. German home appliance giant Bosch's factory in Worcester, in Britain, has been fitted with sensors and 5G technologies as part of a trial for monitoring the health of equipment and predicting failures so that preventive maintenance can be carried out.
  3. German car manufacturer Audi has teamed up with Ericsson to test the use of 5G-connected robots that glue components at its already heavily automated plant in Gaimersheim, Germany. For a start, the process is simulated to reflect those at its largest production site in Ingolstadt .
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