The 5G Connected Forest testbed initiative was announced today, part of which will see Birmingham City University’s computer science experts bringing Robin Hood to life through the use of 5G technology. The £10m project from the UK Department for Culture, Media and Sport will aid the preservation of Sherwood Forest, in Nottinghamshire, through an enhanced visitor experience, as well as helping to accelerate regional socio-economic growth.
5G robotic forest rangers
Sherwood Forest is known worldwide thanks to the legend of Robin Hood and now the ancient woodland will use 5G technology to become home to the development and application of smart robotic forest rangers, autonomous vehicles and a sensor network for environmental monitoring and management. Cutting-edge apps will transform the visitor experience, and include Robin Hood telling the history of the medieval forest via virtual and augmented reality on 5G networks.
The project, which is being delivered alongside Nottinghamshire County Council and other partners, sees a trio of specialists from the School of Computing and Digital Technology at Birmingham City University apply their expertise and experience to develop live AR and VR experiences for visitors. They will investigate high-speed business models that could lead to a boost in rural connectivity and the creation of innovative applications, which could in turn be developed commercially.
Rural 5G testbed
Like Sherwood Forest, many rural areas in the UK of regional or national historical significance, have economies that rely on tourism. So, Sherwood Forest works well as a test-bed to use entertainment and gamification within tourism to test and promote low-cost infrastructure with private network operators. The project could potentially establish an important precedent for connectivity across the rest of the UK using localised roaming, neutral hosting and empathetic ecosystem engagement, as well as new and effective ways to improve connectivity in rural areas utilising 5G technology. In rural areas 5G will strengthen businesses, improve the lives of residents and be a positive for emergency services, educational institutions and more.
Professor Mohammad Patwary, research lead for 5G Connected Forest and member of the Future Networks & Systems cluster at Birmingham City University’s School of Computing and Digital Technology, said, “This is a unique opportunity for the UK to become a world-leader exploiting the technological innovation that 5G can offer. By developing and using innovative technology for destination branding for the visitor economy, we can also preserve the wellbeing of the environment and creating a scalable and sustainable commercial grade experimental network. We are delighted to be leading the way in this world first”.
Professor Julian Beer, Deputy Vice Chancellor of Birmingham City University, said, “Everything we intend to develop during the 5G Connected Forest project is scalable to any other visitor attraction around the world; we intend to pioneer the use of 5G connectivity in this way. With a unique delivery of digital story telling facilities as well as producing long term benefits to the business and residential communities of Sherwood Forest, we expect to see an increase in visitor numbers as well as a jump in GVA for Nottinghamshire more generally. We’re thrilled that Birmingham City University researchers are at the heart of this important work.”
An impressive £800,000 of DCMS funding has been set aside for Professor Patwary and his team to create wireless 5G networks, develop smart systems for robots and drones, produce mobile applications, apply new sensor technology and implement spectrum and network management. This will be done over two years in partnership with Natural England, Netmore, Stagecoach, Nottingham Trent University and others, with work commences in early March 2020.
Government funded trial
The Digital Secretary, Oliver Dowden, announced today that Rural areas will benefit from a series of government-funded trials to help them seize the potential of modern technology. Nine projects across the country, including this one in Sherwood Forrest, will receive a share of £35 million from the rural and industrial 5G competitions, and the new £30 million open competition - 5G Create - will look at how 5G can create new opportunities in industries including film, TV, video games, logistics and tourism.
Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “We’re determined to make the UK a world-leader in 5G and deliver on our promise to improve connections for people and businesses across the country.”