Belfast Harbour has taken part in the first ‘live’ demonstrations in the UK over BT’s new 5G public network. 5G is the next-generation of mobile phone technology and will help Belfast Harbour achieve its ambition of becoming a ‘smart port’ that engages more creatively with customers, visitors and employees.

As part of the demonstrations, supported by BT and mixed reality partners Ubimax and VRtuoso, a member of Belfast Harbour’s operations team used a hands-free, augmented reality headset while inspecting one of the Port’s cranes. This enabled them to provide and receive ‘real time’ video information and guidance while working.

Joe O’Neill, Chief Executive of Belfast Harbour, said:

“Working with BT on this initiative has opened our eyes to a whole new world of 5G possibilities. We have a strong ambition and motivation to become the world’s best regional port and create an iconic waterfront district for Belfast, making it an attractive place to live, work, visit and invest in. Using the very latest technologies and collaborating with expert partners is a key part of how we will deliver that vision for Belfast.

“What we’ve seen so far has given us a real appetite to continue exploring how 5G enabled applications will help us transform the Port and Belfast’s waterfront, boost trade and make an even more significant contribution to Northern Ireland’s economy.”

Gerry McQuade, CEO of BT’s Enterprise unit, added:

“We’re delighted to be working with Belfast Harbour, Ubimax and VRtuoso to explore the benefits that 5G can bring to the Port and to the City of Belfast.

“Over the next 15 years, 5G technologies are expected to contribute $2.2 trillion to the global economy. It will deliver far more than enhanced mobile broadband services and will have a far bigger impact in the enterprise space, by transforming entire industries. But 5G can’t be viewed in isolation. It is a vital component of a brand-new digital ecosystem comprising the Internet of Things, data analytics, AI, mobile edge computing, content and cloud infrastructure.

“The demonstrations we’ve shown today are a powerful illustration of what 5G can do for business, both here in Northern Ireland and across the UK. They’ve shown that 5G will be the catalyst for a revolution in how technology supports people, enables workplaces and simplifies operations.”

5G can help simplify and improve maintenance activities by delivering information directly to staff when and where they need it. The hands-free headsets are particularly suitable in hazardous environments, where health and safety is essential, and are built to work with personal protective equipment such as hard hats.

In another demonstration, participants in different locations were able to connect into the same real-time, virtual presentation. Such immersive experiences have the potential to transform marketing and training activities. They enable companies like Belfast Harbour to bring the Harbour to the customer, letting them experience the environment and services in a much more captivating and immediate way.