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Robots, cars and medical devices… City pioneers 5G trials

THE UK’s first standalone 5G network is now up and running in Milton Keynes.

Businesses from across the UK are now trialling the 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.

The service is powering up robots, medical devices, driverless cars, and energy saving devices. It is being delivered via the MK:5G Accelerator programme, managed by Milton Keynes Council and led by Connected Places Catapult.

It has been paid for by Local Growth Fund money from the South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership.

Projects already under way include a smart traffic management in Milton Keynes to address congestion and improve road safety and air quality. Also being trialled is a new app and wearable smart device for vulnerable and elderly people, created by Cranfield-based Briteyellow, and a self-driving delivery bot providing contact-free delivery.

SEMLEP chief executive Hilary Chipping 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.

Hilary Chipping

“Thanks to MK:5G’s success and innovation, the project has attracted a lot of positive attention and secured additional investment from government.”

Fotech is developing the smart traffic management system. It plans to integrate its technology with the cameras and other sensors and data sources around Milton Keynes in order to develop applications such as bus prioritisation, improved parking management and highway maintenance.

Director Stuart Large said: “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 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.”

Briteyellow 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. 

Founder and chief executive Fredi Nonyelu said: “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. 

“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.”

The Connected Places Catapult, also based in Milton Keynes, is leading the project. 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.”

The programme also involves bespoke business coaching and growth planning, investor introductions, workshops, seminars, and targeted mentoring sessions as the new products seek commercial outcomes and an enhanced product offering.

Brian Matthews, head of transport Innovation at Milton Keynes Council, said: “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.”

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