Port of Antwerp 5G Network Industrial Innovations

  • October 28, 2020
  • William Payne

A year after announcing the creation of its Industry 4.0 Campus in the Port of Antwerp, Orange Belgium and its industrial partners have revealed the results achieved by the 5G network in the Port. The 5G network rolled out by Orange Belgium is the first large scale standalone network in the country. Results in the Port include real-time image streaming, improved centralised control and Port safety systems, and an increase in the number of ships that can use the Port each day.

Among companies based in the Industry 4.0 campus sited in the zone of the Port of Antwerp, high-tech polymer manufacturer Covestro decided to use the potential of 5G to allow its field operators to get real time access to all the information they need. Field inspections of chemical plants require a significant amount of technical information about the plant equipment, and require large expertise from the field operator. Using the 5G network, Covestro’s operators are equipped with a tablet or with smart glasses and connected in real-time to large amounts of technical data and videos, including 3D models of the installation to be serviced. With 5G, the field operators can also even call in remote assistance. Such access to crucial information significantly improves the work processes and the remote assistance lowers the need for physical presence in the chemical production environment.

Polyolefin, fertiliser and base chemical manufacturer Borealis has used the 5G network to securely connect its plants’ equipment with cloud hosted AI powered quality check systems. The connectivity is now released from cable infrastructure, while maintaining data isolation and industrial standards for its production.

Chemical giant BASF is using the 5G network to increase the capabilities of its communications and to upgrade its tetra network. The company is working with Orange Belgium to equip employees and visitors with multi-functional 5G smartphones. It enforces BASF’s ‘one-device’ policy strategy: ruggedised 5G smartphones could ensure mission critical communications (Push-to-X) as well as other smartphone applications. BASF also plans to leverage on 5G capabilities to implement location based safety applications and high quality real-time images. Orange Belgium’s 5G network offers low latency while guaranteeing priority for emergency channels. In case of a serious incident, these channels are protected from network overflow thanks to 5G network slicing.

Steven Werbrouck, expert site automation services and connectivity, BASF Antwerpen, said: “It would be great to evolve to a one device situation, as well with respect to the comfort for the user, as for the total cost of devices. Next to that, if we would be able to add-on some useful features for the intervention teams, whether they are from the Medical Department or the Fire Brigade, we can also help them being more effective. Think about geofencing, video streaming with body cams or connecting wearable gas detectors to the dispatcher’s overview. What we have seen so far looks promising. If coverage and quality of service can be guaranteed, then this could well be the wireless network of the future!

The Port of Antwerp together with Orange Belgium decided to connect a tugboat of the Antwerp Port Authority to the 5G network, allowing the ship to stream real-time images and other data (radar, sonar) to the control room. Using this real-time information, the Antwerp Port Authority can increase the efficiency and the safety of the towing of vessels across the port. It allows it to increase the number of ships entering and leaving the premises each day in the safest possible way.

Werner De Laet, Chief Enterprise, Innovation and Wholesale officer of Orange Belgium, comments: ““We’re extremely proud to now be able to present, together with our partners, great tangible results that were achieved within our Industry 4.0 Campus. The co-innovation process has proven to be a great way of discovering together the industrial potential and the benefits of the 5G technology. This supports the necessity of the 5G roll-out for the industry in Belgium. We hope that the various regulations will evolve to exploit fully the 5G technology potential in order to meet the economic and societal stakes, taking into account the environmental benefits of 5G in terms of energy consumption.”