How 5G drives sustainability and business – lessons in smart ports from Ericsson and TIM
The Italian smart port of Livorno in Italy is to showcase how buzzword industrial tech like 5G, AI, and IoT can help enterprises, municipalities and governments to bring forward environmental improvements to meet the United Nations’ ‘sustainable development goals’ (SDGs).
The SDGs were set out by the UN and ratified by member states in 2015 as a plan to end poverty, protect the planet, and deliver peace. They include targets for clean energy, industry and innovation, and sustainable cities, among others. They put digital technology, along with broader social change, at the heart of the fight to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees by 2030.
The port of Livorno has seen various groups come together to bring sustainability to port operations, and also to drive more efficient business. These include Port System Authority of the Northern Tyrrhenian Sea, alongside Ericsson and Telecom Italia (TIM). The Eni Enrico Mattei Foundation and the National Inter-University Consortium of Telecoms (CNIT) are also involved.
Their project, called ‘Logistics of the future in Sustainable Smart Ports’, is one of the 10 showcase technological solutions to be presented at the Global Solutions Forum organised by the Network for Sustainable Development of the United Nations (SDSN) this week, at Columbia University in New York, taking place during the UN Climate Week.
But how? What has the Italian team delivered, to showcase the value of 5G and associated tech as a means to greater sustainability?
Well, the group has produced a sustainability index to assess the implementation of sustainability measures. The index is derived from a research model developed by the Eni Foundation Enrico Mattei to review the progress of smart city projects in Italy. It considers 5G a critical system for enabling higher levels of automation and intelligence, to lower environmental impact and increase performance.
TIM said in a statement: “This model of analysis has been adapted to the port reality of Livorno municipality, considering the 5G enabled digital transformation as the main driver both for the evaluation of port performances and for the pursuit of sustainable development.”
The port of Livorno has been a testbed for the European Union’s €5 billion COREALIS project, alongside the ports in Antwerp, HaminaKotka, Piraeus, and Valencia, which has sought to examine how disruptive technologies like 5G, AI, and IoT inter-play in cargo ports, creating new digital platforms to handle future capacity and environmental challenges.
TIM said the Corealis project has shown 5G connectivity is able to generate “about 60” direct and indirect benefits for the port system by promoting increased competitiveness and safety, sustainable growth of port cities, “responsible logistics”, and a positive environmental impact. On the last measure, 5G will bring CO2 savings of 8.2 per cent per year, it said, equivalent to almost 148,000 kg of CO2.
The smart ports trials carried out as part of the Corealis project, under the ‘Sustainable Smart Ports’ header, has also shown public and private groups how to work collaboratively, in pursuit of green goals and business gains. “The solution initiative is an excellent example of a driven partnership: different types of stakeholder sharing a common vision on sustainable development,” said Telecom Italia.
Ports are responsible for handling up to 90 per cent of the world’s goods, noted Ericsson. “Wider adoption of 5G ports would have huge environmental impact,” commented Rossella Cardone, European head of sustainability and corporate responsibility at the Swdish telecoms vendor.
Ericsson calculates well-deployed information and communications tech (ICT) can reduce CO2 emissions by 15 per cent; the figure will be accelerated with 5G in the mix, it said. Cardone commented: “[The work in Livorno has shown] 5G networks and IoT solutions have the potential to optimise logistic operations, boosting efficiency and competitiveness, which in turn helps to cut emissions.”
Declares Elisabetta Romano, chief technology and innovation officer at TIM, said: “5G enables advanced services such as environmental monitoring, intelligent logistics and mobility leading to energy savings to the benefit of the green economy.”
Antonella Querci, director of development for European programmes and innovation at the Port System Authority of the Northern Tyrrhenian Sea, said sustainable development objectives will be achieved through “greater control of processes” and “deeper knowledge of operations”.
She commented: “This is particularly true for ports, as complex environments where industrial, logistic and energy-related functions are intertwined and interdependent.”
The way for port enterprises to meet the UN’s SDGs is to invest in research and technological innovation, she said. The result should be to make processes more sustainable, at the same time as increasing the competitiveness and efficiency of the port.
Paolo Pagano, director at CNIT, said: “Enabling so-called ‘massive machine-type communication’ (mMTC) [in 5G] represents a concrete possibility to experiment [with] innovative use cases [that support] cargo handling in the port area. The deployment of the 5G network in Livorno complements other digital infrastructure [to] upgrade [port] processes. 5G innovation also [delivers] a positive impact on [port sustainability and efficiency].”