Telefónica, Deloitte-backed 5G accelerator launches UK smart-city competition
UK-based 5G consortium 5PRING, which includes Telefónica and Deloitte, has partnered with local authorities in the West Midlands in the UK, a regional focus of the UK government’s developing 5G ‘testbed’ trials, to launch a new accelerator challenge to find new 5G applications for smart cities.
5PRING is part of the West Midlands 5G (WM5G) initiative, a public-private partnership ‘innovation’ company formed by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) and the UK government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), which aims to fund, and “test, prove, and scale”, 5G products and services in the region. The UK has earmarked £20 million for WM5G, in addition to local public and private funding, in the period to 2022.
The 5PRING consortium also includes ‘innovation hub’ Wayra UK and government tech innovation agency Digital Catapult. It is geared to develop ‘commercial application accelerators’ for new 5G networks. A press statement from the group suggested 5G will be a “big part” of smart cities to establish an “intelligent network” of connected objects and machines.
It is a characteristic of the public-sector view of the smart cities market, particularly in the UK, that ‘5G’ stretches as an architectural term to incorporate all-manner of networking technologies, including standard low-power and short-range IoT protocols, which have tended to prop up smart city tracking and monitoring cases to date.
The new ‘smart cities challenge’ will provide start-ups and small businesses with support to develop and scale 5G innovations targeted at the health and social care, public sectors, ‘social and events’ (traffic and public transportation), and public safety, the group said.
It wants solutions for “wellbeing, digital experiences, smart parking, journey planning, and waste management”, among others. It is pitching for submissions from enterprises with 5G-enabled solutions that leverage AR/VR, IoT, AI, and edge computing.
Local councils have been engaged, including from Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall, and Wolverhampton, as well as the Black Country Consortium, Coventry and Warwickshire, and Greater Birmingham and Solihull local enterprise partnerships (LEPs).
Successful applicants will have access to a private 5G network at the University of Wolverhampton Science Park and a tailored acceleration programme, as well as coaching, mentoring, and expertise from the seven West Midlands’ local authorities’, three LEPs, and the 5PRING consortium members. Applications close on June 25.
Raj Mack, head of business engagement for IT and digital services at Birmingham City Council said: “Our collaboration with 5PRING will give all of the participating local authorities in the West Midlands the opportunity to work closely with small business and start-ups to support and leverage 5G innovation. With this collaboration, we are looking to foster digitalisation of an array of services. 5PRING will allow us to identify and trial ground-breaking solutions in a real testbed environment.”
Tim Pile, chair of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull local enterprise partnership, said: “The commercialisation of 5G offers fantastic opportunities for small businesses to scale up and for start-ups to develop ideas. As a business led organisation, we are here to enable smaller companies to develop and thrive. GBSLEP works in collaboration with local government, businesses and educational leaders to target investments in areas we believe will help grow our regional economy and we are proud to be backing the UK’s first 5G commercial application accelerator.”
Robert Franks, managing director at 5PRING, said: “We are committed to support the region’s recovery post-Covid – smart city technology will make a genuine and measurable difference to our towns and cities and innovation will be crucial to ensure the region thrives. We are… confident that through collaboration we can help to bring a range of proofs of concept into reality in the future.”
5PRING has just closed a separate challenge to provide startups and small businesses support to develop and scale 5G-based innovations for the construction industry, with specific focuses on health, safety, security, logistics, and site operations.