5G IRL: proving the commercial benefits of 5G at Cambridge’s private testbed
New 5G-enabled business models set to increase revenues for an eSport provider
Lower cost of deployment versus wired network connections, saving £thousands per installation for a road safety equipment supplier
Positioning an autonomous robotics company to take scalable opportunities in a combined agriculture, transportation & logistics and defence market worth £60bn+
Three innovative companies recently completed an independent, 12-week, fully-supported development cycle programme at a specially-constructed private network testbed in Cambridge. Yet importantly, this programme is not about the high-end engineering.
The CW 5G Testbed, now working with its second cohort of companies, has paired exciting UK start-ups with commercially-astute business minds to help move their product cycle forward and optimise their business cases sooner than normally considered.
“At the end of the day, we and our partners feel this is what is really important,” says Abhi Naha, Chief Commercial Officer at CW (pictured), who is leading the Accelerator programme, “It’s crucial we ensure that the viable business case matches up to the exciting, innovative technology being deployed.”
“Having relevant commercial objectives and audiences strategically planned out, and a structure in place to achieve these objectives, alongside a crucial focus on making scalable and fully-tested technology, is the combined end goal for any product or service.”
“A future-focused balance between innovative, creative expertise and rigorously evaluated, commercially-viable products and services is why we’re seeing such positive results from the testbed so far,” Abhi continues.
David Roberts, CTO for Special Projects at CW, adds: “We’ve been blown away by innovation by some of the start-ups, and have a joint vision to create a proof of real business value – this is not just a techy hackathon.”
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Accelerator applicants were able to use the indoor 5G private network, the latest 5G enabled devices and a brand-new innovation lab within the Cambridge Science Park.
Between July and October 2021, the accelerator enabled the three companies to test, adapt, tweak and learn in a fully-supported 5G environment, and involved a close collaboration on commerciality and proving the business case.
Testbed partners TusPark UK and Huawei joined CW to support the digitalisation of the Cambridge Science Park and enable businesses to exploit new capabilities, fast-tracking innovation and gaining competitive advantage as they adopt 5G.
The three successful applicants had free access to:
- A 5G private network covering a dedicated project room, a lobby reception with cafeteria and underground car park within the building
- The latest 5G-enabled devices
- Masterclasses run by industry experts covering the latest applications and case studies for successful 5G adoption
- Hardware, software, application and project coaching and support
- Introductions to, and engagement with, the CW member network - in particular industry sectors who have expressed interest for innovative 5G use cases
Following on from the first CW testbed, which took place in early 2021, Abhi Naha is pleased to see the Accelerator evolve as more tangible business opportunities are finessed.
“At the heart of this ongoing project is a shared collaborative spirit,” says Abhi, “and we are very thankful to our partners from Huawei and Tuspark, as well as to our mentors, who have shared their experience and insight, even if from completely different verticals than their mentees.”
“This cross-fertilisation of ideas and open-source thinking has enabled this second testbed to evolve significantly from our first.”
“One of the initial applicants, Epitomical, even partnered with former accelerator participant Extend Robotics to further develop their offering, adding a remotely-controlled robotic arm to Eptomical’s autonomous robotic Rover vehicles.”
The ability for the fully private testbed to be deployed with, or without, network operator involvement, and the level of flexibility of network design and configuration has empowered the participants to create bespoke, customer-specific solutions.
Hado: The “world’s first techo-sport”.
HADO UK – the developer and distributor of the popular augmented reality-based e-sport is taking its gaming experience to a new level for players and consumers. With 5G the platform can properly support teams playing each other remotely – a European international match can be held without any player getting on a plane.
Starting in 2015, it is now in 38 countries around the world. HADO is HIIT (high-intensity interval training) combined with a VR; the combination of physical and virtual gaming.
The biggest uptake group are teenagers, almost exclusively those who don't play traditional sports. One of its key attractions are that size and strength are irrelevant, as you can play successfully whatever your physical attributes.
5G has allowed us to create a stable platform to run remote play matches for a physical sport, something that has purely been the domain of eSports until now. – Jim Sephton, Director, HADO UK
Epitomical: Autonomous machines as a service.
Epitomical, designers of the autonomous connected vehicle the Autorover, are transforming critical workers’ abilities to perform tasks in dangerous environments thanks to 5G-enabled real-time teleoperations and a new robotic arm from Extend Robotics on their mobile rover platform.
Epitomical is building exciting new technology for the future of transportation, where autonomous connected vehicles are a key requirement for hazardous, labour intensive or monotonous tasks across surveillance, agriculture, health and safety and manufacturing.
The initial electric vehicle prototype that can run at 7km/ph and carry a payload of up to 80kg, is being trialled. Ultimately the end-user will subscribe to a model where Epitomical provide logistics, operations and maintenance for their remote controlled machines.
Advances in sensor technology, computing power, and edge processing together with advanced AI capabilities makes collaboration between man and machine inevitable. Innovative communications technology like 5G will enable machines to talk to the cloud and each other in ways not previously possible. The accelerator has allowed us to demonstrate the benefits of native 5G capability between our Autorover and users using high bandwidth, low latency and private 5G networks. – Epitomical Director, Danish Alam
Cambridge Sensoriis:vehicular tracking with high-frequency, long-range radar.
Cambridge Sensoriis, experts in radar technology, are bringing a new level of safety to the UK’s roads and skies with their new 5G-enabled cloud computing solution that can position, track and monitor moving drones, driverless cars and autonomous vehicles to an accuracy of a few centimetres, in all weather conditions, including at night.
The support we’ve had, both technically and commercially, has greatly helped us test and refine our highly sensitive radar systems which will be critical for the autonomous vehicle revolution. Sensoriis is now well positioned to provide the necessary radar solutions for the newly dawning and exciting age of autonomous drones, cars, and industrial vehicles. – Cambridge Sensoriis CEO, Steve Clark.
“Independent private testbeds are vital to this stage of R&D”, continues Abhi, “They are more configurable. Devs can access additional features. And you can test multiple scenarios in a robust and – importantly – private manner.”
“As James Dyson has mentioned in his recent book, failures are interesting for entrepreneurs, but it's equally important to fail and retest in private!”
Henk Koopmans, CEO of one of the testbed partners, Huawei Technologies R&D (UK), agrees with idea of flexibility enabling growht, and was particularly pleased to see how the projects and teams embodied the start-up mentality.
“At Huawei, we believe deeply in the power of 5G to make business more intelligent and society more responsible. The way we think about ourselves is a huge collection of start-ups.
“At the core of our company is R&D. The journey itself leads to new discoveries, for humanity, as well as ourselves.”
“Connectivity empowers extraordinary advances to be made, and – as this latest programme has shown – 5G marks an important milestone in this journey. Not just faster and more data, but applications being made possible.”
“With these testbeds it really feels like anything is possible. This is the kind of R&D that makes me love my job.”
In the coming weeks, CW Journal will be hosting interviews and further detail on each of the three startups (see initial details of the companies below), commentary from their mentors and what the teams have learned from the intense three-month project.
In the meantime, you can watch the videos of the initial results here.
The next accelerator on the CW 5G Testbed will start in February 2022. SMEs looking to develop 5G into their products can visit the CW 5G Testbed page or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further details.
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