Home5GHelsinki Hospital preps 5G ‘video robots’ for remote monitoring of Covid-19 patients

Helsinki Hospital preps 5G ‘video robots’ for remote monitoring of Covid-19 patients

HUS Helsinki University Hospital is working with Finnish carrier Elisa to lay the ground for 5G-enabled ‘video robots’ to enable doctors and nurses to interact with coronavirus (Covid-19) patients remotely.

The pair have already deployed a prototype video robot that uses the hospital Wi-Fi network. They will upgrade to 5G in the coming weeks, they said. Both ways, the robot connects medical staff with patients over a video feed. Doctors and nurses can ‘drive’ the robot using a tablet computer, from anywhere inside the hospital. The robot is being used to check on them, including during night time inspection rounds. The idea is to reduce the risk to staff of being exposed to the virus.

Kimmo Pentikäinen, vice president of production business development at Elisa, commented: “The present version uses Wi-Fi to receive usability feedback also from the connectivity perspective. We are planning to upgrade the hardware for 5G in following weeks. We expect to have better quality of connectivity with 5G.”

HUS Helsinki University Hospital is Finland’s largest provider of healthcare services and second largest employer with 25,000 staff. The robot service is a product of the Sustainable Future Accelerator, organised by Elisa and HUS Helsinki University Hospital earlier this year for developers to launch services for “a more sustainable society”.

The pair have so far deployed an RTLS system to share anonymised location data about movements on site, to help manage proximity-tracing in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Elisa said the trace-and-trace apparatus has received positive feedback from hospital staff. The new 5G video pilot is the latest trial project; the accelerator has a couple of months to go, during which time new service pilots will be presented.

Kimmo Pentikäinen, vice president of business development at Elisa, said: “Elisa is actively developing 5G and IoT services with various partners. We have already witnessed several tangible services taking shape and seen how these are helping customers in their everyday life – video robot for corona ward setting a great example.

“From these new services 20 have been the first one´s in the whole world or in Finland. Our mission is to create a sustainable future through digitalisation and overcoming the corona pandemic is one of the most pressing sustainability challenges right now.”

Pekka Kahri, technology officer at HUS, commented: “The feedback from the personnel says that we have already spared many sets of protective gear and the robot has successfully performed nightly inspection rounds in corona ward. Robot is being tested and further developed in close co-operation with users, including nurses and doctors. This way we can make sure that the robot service meets the needs of a demanding hospital environment.”

In September, Elisa said it had turned a mass-produced tractor into a “5G remote-controlled work machine” that can carry out tasks that would otherwise put human lives at risk. The work follows a deal with tractor maker Valtra, signed earlier this year, to develop 5G-controlled tractors. It said mass produced tractors can  be customised to operate on 5G without a driver sitting in the cab. Elisa has produced a 5G unit that can be fixed to a tractor to enable remote control from hundreds of kilometres away.

The firm has worked with Qualcomm to establish a new IoT innovation centre in Finland rigged with private 5G. The facility is being run by new Finnish tech firm UROS, alongside Qualcomm, as a “next generation” IoT showroom and collaboration facility. UROS is a partner of AT&T, China Telecom, Qualcomm, and Motorola. The new venue, in the city of Oulu, is the first in Finland to utilise private 5G in IoT product development and validation, according to its proprietor.

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