Digital technologies have the potential to transform operations and make them more scalable, resilient, and transparent. 5G is a key enabler – connecting workers, cranes, trucks, and vessels across the entire port system and offering high bandwidth, low latency communications. It creates a communications platform for edge cloud computing, artificial intelligence and machine learning as well as digital twins and more capable port community systems. What all these technologies share is the importance of data: collecting, transmitting, analysing, and using data to improve workflows, predict equipment failures, provide transparency to supply chain partners and helping to design better processes.
Overcoming automation bottlenecks
Automation of cargo handling has focused on the two most popular yard machines, RMGs and RTGs. In 2000, we saw the development of automated rail-mounted gantry and automated electrified rubber-tyred gantry cranes. Both technologies, while promising, are literally held back by their fiber-optic tethers. 5G wireless communications are one of the key technologies needed to solve this issue.
Equipment vendors, such as Kalmar, are incorporating 4G and 5G private wireless from Nokia into their systems for straddle carriers, automated stacking carriers and rubber-tyred gantry cranes. Click to see how Kalmar enables next-gen Port terminal automation.
One comms network
Another area where 5G shines, is its ability to consolidate multiple existing networks onto one. Dock and yard workers typically rely on professional mobile radio, TETRA and P25, for push-to-talk services. For general purpose data comms, Wi-Fi provides an outdoor extension of the terminal office LAN. 5G can provide push-to-talk and push-to-video services for workers on the move, as well as data communications. While Wi-Fi is capable enough for moving data files around the terminal, the many metal surfaces of container stacks cause radio interference that can create dead zones, which is difficult to solve for Wi-Fi radio network in a dynamic environment with containers being moved constantly. 5G employs more robust technologies for overcoming interference and provides seamless coverage with less outdoor radio access points and no need to re-engineer coverage as yard configurations change.
The future and 5G
5G has always had a special focus on its role in future industrial infrastructure solutions. That future has arrived, and 5G will play an increasingly important role in the digital transformation to Port 4.0. To learn more, click here.