|Anyone who has lived in or visited Britain’s beautiful coastlines knows that there is one downside – it can be difficult and, in some areas, impossible, to get phone signal. This can be a challenge for tourists and an even greater issue for emergency services and first responder teams, who may not be able to reach the support they need. This is why 5G RuralDorset – a multi-million pound government funded project – is currently underway, to improve safety across the Dorset Coast and quality of life for people living and working in Dorset. Simon Hill, technical director at Excelerate Technology, a UK-leading cellular, satellite and wireless communications specialist that is currently installing the 5G infrastructure along the Jurassic Coast as part of 5G RuralDorset, examines the potential of 5G to transform rural areas. Why do we need ‘connected’ coastlines? During a life-threatening or major incident, it’s crucial that emergency services and first responders have instant access to information and support. Being able to view a patient’s records to see a history of long-term illness, consulting a specialist over a video call for advice on specific care, or being able to request an air ambulance in a timely manner could help to save lives. But limited or poor telecommunications infrastructure, as is currently the case along the majority of Britain’s coastlines and many rural areas, can put lives at risk.|
5G is enabling smart technology on the coast The improved data communication speeds and bandwidth of 5G networks have paved the way for smart technology that could help to save lives, a partnership between Excelerate Technology and Jet Engineering System Solutions has seen the development of buoys that can monitor surf conditions. Smart buoys use JET’s designed 5G routers paired with sensors to acquire real-time data’, which may include tide height, wave height and frequency and current strength and direction. This information will be transferred to the onshore 5G network and easily viewable on connected digital signs. This is just one of the advanced technologies that the 5G RuralDorset project is implementing. It can help the public to make more informed decisions on whether the area is safe, increase awareness of potential risks to both the public and emergency services and prevent harm or loss of life. Additionally, 5G connectivity will be deploying the first 5G connected digital signage to provide safety information to the public in real time, including tide times, weather warnings and cliff erosion. This potentially life-saving information would normally be inaccessible in areas that lack connectivity. Digital signage may also help to take some of the strain off ambulance and first responder services, as well as agencies such as the Coastguard and RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution). The Coastguard and RNLI currently use a lot of resource deploying traditional signage; digital signage provides a way to quickly communicate potential danger to a large number of people and creates cost and time savings.
5G could contribute to making popular areas safer during the COVID-19 pandemic 5G connectivity can be used to monitor the numbers of visitors at tourist hotspots to prevent overcrowding and inform members of the public as to how busy the area is. This information can be collected in a way that upholds anonymity and individuals’ privacy. As an example, an algorithm which can estimate numbers on the beach by counting MAC (media access control) addresses will be used for 5G RuralDorset trials. Every device has its own unique MAC address, which can be discovered when a device connects to a network. The algorithm takes several factors into account, such as the possibility of people carrying more than one device and the likely number of families with children on the beach, as young children are unlikely to carry devices, to provide a reliable estimate. Accurate and reliable information as to the number of people in an area can also aid first responders and emergency services personnel deployed to attend an accident or emergency. Air ambulances, for example, require a clear landing space. In the event of a life-threating emergency, having access to critical information can help emergency services to respond proactively, rather than reactively, clearing the area in advance to reduce the risk of delay to life-saving treatment.
5G could improve quality of life in rural areas Being ‘connected’ has become part of everyday life in the modern world. 5G infrastructure and 5G broadband could benefit people in rural areas in a myriad of ways, from enabling crucial services, including first responder organisations to be able to leverage 5G for easier communication and data-driven decision making, to improving opportunities and quality of life. During the pandemic, being able communicate via phone or zoom provided a great deal of relief for many people, and it became clear just how critical reliable access to the internet was. Furthermore, the ‘new world’ offers opportunities for better work/life balance via hybrid systems or remote working, and reliable connectivity is also important for business owners who wish to take advantage of the growth of e-commerce, and to engage with customers online. Why should people living in rural communities miss out on these advantages, or encounter additional challenges, due to unreliable connectivity? Additionally, 5G broadband could help schools to make online learning and resources accessible for pupils, potentially improving education and prospects for children in rural areas It is hoped that the 5G RuralDorset project will prove the benefits of 5G and ‘always on’ connectivity to people, businesses and institutions in rural areas
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