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5G: Insights from use cases and customer applications

At the 2019 O2 Blue Door Conference, O2’s CIO Debra Bailey chaired a panel discussion highlighting a number of real-world 5G use cases and applications being tested right now. Here’s our roundup of three of them.

Yamazaki Mazak – The 5G approach to support and maintenance

Yamazaki Mazak is a machine and industrial tooling business based in Worcester. As a member of Worcestershire’s Local Enterprise Partnership, Mazak worked alongside partners that included O2 and Bosch to create a testbed environment for a series of 5G use cases in two factories.

Tim Gane, Mazak’s Business Systems Director, summarised the two principal 5G use cases they have been trialling:

  1. The Remote Expert Support Solution – Machine tooling engineers are in short supply so Mazak has been testing the use of Augmented Reality to enable a more experienced engineer to support less experienced engineers at sites across the globe. This ensures SLA timeframes can be met, and also provides an opportunity for a second set of eyes to inspect the quality of work, providing remote assistance where needed. The result of 5G means better workforce management, a reduction in call-backs, and the ability to fulfil service calls to a consistent level of quality and satisfaction.
  2. The Preventative Maintenance Solution – Mazak is also trialling the use of IoT sensors, deployed within their tooling machinery, which provides real time data about the wear and condition of each of the core components. As a result, this 5G use case means service can be provided when it is needed, rather than at fixed intervals, with faults and component failure predicted before even more serious damage can occur.

In use cases like these, 5G is the game changer. Until now, remote access to customer machinery and plants has been difficult, because of concerns about network security. But with the carrier grade security that 5G will bring, Mazak will be able to deploy a secure, private network within the customer’s factory, enabling service and repair to be conducted remotely with the high bandwidths, low latency and low power requirements needed for the solutions to be effective.

Northumbrian Water Group – The digital water company

Northumbrian Water Group (NWG) provides water and wastewater services in the North East of England and in Essex. Martin Jackson, NWG’s Head of IT Strategy and Architecture, talked about the group’s ambitious plans to become ‘the most digital water company in the world’ through the help of 5G.

To achieve this goal, Martin sees technology as the enabler that can deliver better services and outcomes for its employees, partners and customers. Martin recognises that NWG doesn’t necessarily have all the answers, and is proud to see itself as a learning organisation:

“We are inquisitive about emerging technologies and new ways of working, and are keen to take inspiration from a broad spectrum of partners and industry leaders in these areas.”

Automation is key to the group’s approach to delivering better experiences and services. A great example is NWG’s Utileyes app, which allows customers to upload a video of a potential domestic problem direct to NWG’s Customer Centre for a technician to diagnose and advise on any action that needs to be taken. It won the Customer Service Initiative of the Year at the 2018 Water Industry Awards plus the 2019 O2 Blue Door Award for ‘Using digital connectivity to improve customer satisfaction’.

So how is NWG employing new and emerging technologies? The group’s digital strategy combines a range of initiatives including unified communications, cloud, machine learning, AI and integrated services, all working together to improve efficiencies and develop new ways of working and communicating. For example, O2 provides NWG with a reliable, secure network that enables smart technologies like Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, and 5G will provide even more capability in this space. When coupled with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning, it will enhance the opportunity to detect and even predict leaks at specific points and allow them to provide even higher levels of service to their customer base, while lowering their own service costs.

Millbrook Proving Ground – The 5G vehicle testbed

The Millbrook Testing Centre in Bedfordshire started life as a vehicle testing track in the 1970s. With the development of connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) and associated technologies, Millbrook has grown into the densest 4G and 5G vehicle testbed in Europe supported by a purpose built and supported network from O2.

Peter Stoker, Millbrook’s Director of Vehicle Engineering, talked about how Millbrook provides a safe and secure environment for the testing and validation of a number of CAV technologies. The emphasis is on the incremental gains achieved from testing, failing and testing again, and Millbrook provides the privacy and ability to do it.

Millbrook also helped to develop and safely test O2’s Smart Ambulance, as part of a trial with the potential to revolutionise patient diagnosis, transport and treatment. The project involved equipping a standard ambulance with state-of-the-art devices and simulated 5G connectivity, transforming the vehicle into a unique remote consultation room.

With the opportunity that 5G is providing industries, O2 wants to understand the use cases that can help mobilise and enable organisations connect to people, devices and things. By understanding your use cases we also have an opportunity to develop our network continually with your needs in mind. How will improved connectivity benefit your sector, and what are the 5G use cases that you have seen? Reach out via our social channels or contact us directly to discuss 5G opportunities for your business.

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