Corporate and Public Sector Technology Director, BT
Smart tech such as 5G-led converged solutions are able to help local authorities address key challenges. But while the technology is there, using it requires a new way of thinking.
This is an exciting, game-changing time to be in tech. One of the things enabling the game to change is the 5G network.
For most people, 5G simply means faster mobile access. “But that’s a very simplified view,” says Phil Baulch, Corporate and Public Sector Technology Director, BT. “Because when you combine 5G with other technologies — such as data analytics and the Internet of Things — you have an entire set of capabilities to deploy, dependent on the outcome you want to achieve.”
For local authorities, that means tackling any number of challenges, including improving the quality of the environment and providing more efficient health services, social care and transport.
Creating a richer tapestry of 5G-led technology
But rather than identifying one problem and solving it with a single solution, a richer tapestry of interconnected 5G-led technology — a ‘digital fabric’, as Baulch calls it — brings data together from an array of different sources and can help solve everything ‘in the round’. “Everything is inter-related,” he says. “For example, with 5G-led converged technology, councils can better orchestrate the movement of people and things and help improve air quality at the same time. But there’s no point in doing this in one location. We have to do it at scale across the UK, in a joined-up way.”
When you combine 5G with other technologies — such as data analytics and the Internet of Things — you have an entire set of capabilities to deploy, dependent on the outcome you want to achieve.
This, however, requires better collaboration between various stakeholders, such as councils working with the private sector on insights sharing. It’s a big cultural shift, admits Baulch — although he points to BT’s Stirling and Hertfordshire Living Labs projects, where different partners have joined forces to develop innovations that better serve their local communities.
The possibilities of the new 5G-enabled technologies are endless. For example, they can create a truly immersive experience that could transform the high street or revolutionise how children interact in classrooms. This is already happening with pupils in Cumbernauld, North Lanarkshire, who were recently the first in the UK to literally dive into a 5G-enabled sensory lesson. This was created through a 360-degree digital classroom projection where pupils experienced what it’s like to be under the ocean.
“We’re at the stage where the availability of IoT technology and computing capability can create innovations that have the power to transform the way we live and work,” says Baulch.