Belfast Telegraph

Creating the world’s smartest regional port

Trevor Anderson, Director of Infrastructure and Business Transformation, Belfast Harbour

BT, working in partnership with Belfast Harbour will help deliver ambitious plans for a smart, connected port

Northern Ireland is on the cusp of a digital revolution, with the launch of 5G in May 2019 paving the way for future innovations that have the potential to transform our region.

With 2,000 acres of land and 1,000 acres of water and a diverse occupier base, Belfast Harbour Estate is a unique place to trial innovative new technology.  Already home to some 760 businesses, Belfast Harbour houses a vibrant sectoral mix to include marine logistics and heavy engineering, commercial and residential real estate, retail, financial and IT services, tourism and leisure, media and creative industries.

In our strategic plan, A Vision to 2035: A Port for Everyone, we’ve set out our key ambition to become a ‘Smart Port’, one that is innovative and uses the latest available digital technology. We aim to become the most connected regional gateway for trade and economic growth and to create an iconic waterfront for the city where people want to live, work, visit and invest.

To harness the power of 5G and other new digital technology such as the Internet of Things (IoT), we are engaging in collaborative partnerships with industry experts, including BT.

Belfast was one of six cities selected by EE, part of the BT Group, to launch 5G networks earlier this year (the other cities being: London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Birmingham and Manchester). It is within such cities, some of the UK’s busiest locations, where 5G can make a significant difference, providing more reliable data connections, even in the biggest crowds.

At Belfast Harbour, we’re exploring the benefits that 5G’s low latency and high speeds provides to enable the use of innovations like Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) to fuel greater efficiency.

One such VR innovation delivers a fully immersive and interactive experience of a location for marketing purposes. For example, our City Quays development could be viewed and explored interactively by prospective customers from anywhere in the world, drawing down VR content from the cloud.

Another, current innovation uses VR to improve health and safety training by introducing immersive safety experiences that enhance the existing practical and classroom programmes.

Within a large estate there’s huge benefit to be gained from mobile digital connectivity and this is being addressed through wearable tech which delivers an AR experience to enable technicians in the field gain access to remote maintenance support.

Belfast Harbour
Belfast Harbour

Through such technology an engineer can remotely see what the technician is seeing and can annotate on the technician’s vision to provide clear advice. This is a real game-changer for Belfast Harbour and we’re working closely with BT to make it a reality.

Belfast Harbour is also working closely with leading smart ports to create a more connected port community system, using technology to make information more accessible to all port users and helping to increase efficiency and productivity.

City _Quays_Two-11.jpg
Belfast Harbour Estate City Quays

Belfast Harbour has also outlined its ambition to become the world’s greenest multi-modal Port by deploying new technology to improve air quality, reduce fuel consumption and reduce emissions. The port will digitise, decarbonise and decentralise its energy, working in partnership with the city and others to deliver solutions that can be used elsewhere, for the greater good.

The same ethos of innovation extends to our plans to develop world class public spaces which incorporate new interactive experiences supported by high speed personal and business connectivity through leading edge 5G and public Wi-Fi. This digital transformation is a key aspect of our vision to create an iconic waterfront that will be a great place in which to live, work, visit and invest.

There are exciting times ahead in terms of what can be achieved at Belfast Harbour, but already, BT is helping us to deliver innovations that are putting Northern Ireland at the forefront of the digital revolution.

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