Consortium wins £3.5m to bring 5G to deprived parts of the city

A LIVERPOOL health, social care and technology consortium has won £3.5 million to bring 5G broadband connectivity to socially and economically deprived parts of the city.

The innovative Liverpool partnership, The Liverpool 5G Testbed, has been awarded £3.5 million by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS).

The money will be used to set up trials of 5G broadband in parts of the city, facilitating health and welfare applications with measurable social benefits. The funding is part of the UK’s 5G technology strategy.

The unique partnership, one of only six across the UK to successfully secure the funding, will employ cutting edge technologies such as low-cost unlicensed mmWave 5G broadband, open source networking, artificial intelligence, virtual reality and the Internet of Things (IoT), to improve patient monitoring and support, and communication between hospitals and the community. The project will be led by Joe Spencer, University of Liverpool Academic Lead for Sensor City.

Margot James, Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries said: “One year on from the Digital Strategy, we are delivering on our commitments to create a Britain fit for the future, with a thriving digital economy that works for everyone.
“The ground-breaking projects we’re funding in Liverpool and across the UK will help to unlock 5G and ensure the benefits of this new technology are felt across the economy and wider society.”

The Liverpool 5G consortium (Blu Wireless Technology, AIMES, Inventya, DefProc, Digital Creativity in Disability, CGA Simulation, Sensor City, Liverpool City Council, Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust (RLBUHT), Liverpool University, and Liverpool John Moores University), has dynamic experience from a range of sectors: academic, health, wireless, emerging and computer technology, which it will use to improve digital care options for people in the Liverpool City Region who don’t currently have reliable internet coverage.

Alison Mitchell, executive director, Sensor City, who are leading the project, said: “The Liverpool 5G test-bed will enable us to explore experimental new models of service provision which will improve quality of life, reduce care costs and create new opportunities for SMEs providing digital social care and health content.”

Tests will follow on from the City Council’s Stop and Go project. Around 50 inpatients in the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust (RLBUHT), and 150 users of Liverpool Adult Social Services will benefit from access to applications based on the high-bandwidth broadband network.

David Walliker, (RLBUHT) Chief Information Officer, said: “We are delighted to be a partner in this project and very excited about the opportunity this brings to health care innovations in Liverpool. As a Global Digital Exemplar, this complements our Digital Liverpool Strategy and further puts the city of Liverpool at the forefront of digital innovations both nationally and internationally.”

The applications will include video monitoring (augmented by artificial intelligence technology), to spot unusual behaviours in patients or emergency incidents like falls, teleconferencing for patients and their health practitioners and apps to help combat loneliness in older adults – a serious problem in an ageing population.

The Liverpool 5G project also allows the consortium to test how Internet of Things (IoT) devices, already being used to deliver better social and health care services in Liverpool, could be more effective if used in conjunction with 5G connectivity.

The new and emerging digital healthcare technologies being tested, require fast, reliable Wi-Fi broad band, which is not universally available or affordable for vulnerable or elderly people.

Henry Nurser, CEO at Blu Wireless, explains the 5G technology: “We build on already installed fibre, allowing internet service providers to use unlicensed spectrum band to provide Gbit connectivity to homes using street-level mesh networks, with unobtrusive equipment mounted on street-lights. This approach does not require expensive physical fibre connections to individual homes and is an extremely cost-effective complement to full fibre.”

This innovative 5G solution is particularly effective in dense urban environments, so will work well in highly populated Liverpool neighbourhoods, where buildings potentially block signals. The lower installation and running costs make it affordable and scalable, which means it could be replicated globally.

Jon Wetherall, is managing director of CGA Simulation: “Liverpool has a strong history of creating world-leading games technology. By embracing emerging technologies (augmented reality), we can begin to solve ‘real world’ problems in the health and social care sectors, helping to keep people better connected and well for longer.”