Singapore telco StarHub has teamed up with Nanyang Polytechnic to launch a facility that can help develop and test proof-of-concepts running on 5G networks. It also will work with the local education institution to develop the skillsets needed to support the ecosystem.
The NYP-StarHub Application & Experience Centre for 5G (APEX 5G) operates on StarHub's 5G network, which runs on 3.5GHz and 28GHz spectrum. Located at the polytechnic's School of Engineering, the new facility will offer training as well as co-development and testing of various use cases, the partners said in a joint statement Tuesday. Potential applications could range from automated product quality inspections for manufacturing and construction to real-time video analytics for retail and healthcare sectors, they said.
They added that they were already in discussions with several organisations to deploy the use cases as soon as 5G was commercially available in Singapore. These included Singapore General Hospital (SGH), retail chain BHG Singapore, industrial drones developer Avetics, Microsoft, STMicroelectronics, and AI (artificial intelligence) startup Yitu.
SGH, for instance, was testing applications that enabled real-time monitoring of patients at the hospital's emergency department, so staff could better identify or be alerted to patients who required immediate attention. Advancements in the Internet of Medical Things had enabled hospitals to use infrared sensors, wearables, and cameras to gather and evaluate patients' vital signs and behavioural patterns. AI algorithms then could be applied to predict or identify patients at risk of rapid deterioration and alert staff to carry out timely intervention.
Such applications, however, required large amounts of data to be reliably transmitted from the field in real-time, to centralised servers with computing capacity large enough to run advanced AI algorithms. Current data communication infrastructures also were unable to support the large bandwidth, low latency, and high reliability of data transmission needed.
At the test centre, Nanyang Polytechnic and SGH would co-develop the application to tap the benefits of 5G connectivity.
The next-generation communications network also would enable video cameras to be placed in locations that previously would require wires. In a retail store, for instance, data such as the customer's gender and age could be established upon entry through the use of video analytics. The 5G-powered application could track customers' journey as they browsed the store and identify products they examined and how long they took to assess the product before placing them back on the shelf.
Such data could be collected and wirelessly transmitted to the server and retailers could use Edge AI-driven analytics to gain insights on customers' demographics and the items they purchased or examine. Such data insights could help retailers tweak their operations based on customer demands, in real-time.
"Consumers connected to retail 5G networks in their smartphones will be able to interact with products in stores and seamlessly 'walk in and out' of any store via augmented reality, with high-speed, real-time connection," the partners said. "This brings shopping to another level of interaction and engagement with the retailer."
According to Nanyang Polytechnic and StarHub, BHG and Yitu were working to develop such applications for the retail space.
Through the new centre, the polytechnic and StarHub also would identify the skillsets needed to tap the emergence of 5G and integrate these into the curriculum of selected courses. More than 100 students a year were expected to receive training in 5G and the associated technologies at the APEX 5G facility as well as work on use cases across different verticals.
Describing 5G as a "gamechanger" for various industries, Nanyang Polytechnic's principal and CEO Jeanne Liew said the school's partnership with StarHub would help groom its students for the new era.
StarHub CEO Peter Kaliaropoulos added that the two companies already were existing partners, having worked together to cultivate talent and drive the development of applications in healthcare, data analytics, and cybersecurity.
The trials will run entirely on 5G, and independent of 4G infrastructure, which the Singapore and Malaysia telcos say make these different from other roaming trials that still tap 5G non-standalone technology.
Government expects to have two full-fledged standalone 5G networks covering more than half of Singapore by end-2022 and, if there is interest from the industry, it will release another two lots of 800MHz of mmWave spectrum to be used for smaller non-standalone networks.
Industry regulator Infocomm Media Development Authority has set aside S$40 million (US$29.53 million) to support research and development efforts and drive adoption of 5G, which include initiatives focused on key verticals such as urban mobility and maritime.
Mobile data traffic in Southeast Asia and Oceania will climb seven times to 16 exabytes per month by 2024, with growth fuelled by "rapid early momentum and enthusiasm" for 5G, reveals a study by Ericsson, which anticipates the mobile technology will account for 12 percent of subscriptions in the region by then.
Government waives frequency fees for 5G trials until December 2019, in a move aimed at driving the market and uncovering potential use cases for the next-generation network.