How 5G innovation can bring the world to every classroom
I have been waiting for something like 5G for more than 30 years – since my first visit to London. Back then, one of the big highlights was that I finally got to go to the Science Museum in South Kensington. As soon as I walked in, I experienced a rush of excitable teenage emotions, but my overwhelming memory is of thinking: why couldn’t I have gone there sooner?
You can imagine how excited I am now that, potentially, schoolchildren from all over the UK won’t have to travel hundreds of miles to the museum. One day soon, thanks to 5G, they will be able to see, hear and physically interact with exhibits in the museum from their classroom, sitting with their friends.
Now, a cross-collaboration of like-minded individuals from King’s College London, BT, Room One, NeuroDigital Technologies and Ericsson have come together to determine how the transfer of skills from a remote expert could be achieved. We’re calling it the Internet of Skills.
Building the Internet of Skills with 5G
It all started with the vision of Professor Mischa Dohler and the request of a close colleague of ours, Prokar Dasgupta, a professor and surgeon at King's College London Hospital. Dasgupta asked for three things to take robotic surgery and his teaching to the next level: the sense of touch while using the robotic equipment; the ability to use the equipment remotely; and the ability to share his expertise with his students.
Initially this work was primarily contained within King’s College, but over quite a brief period it has led to the creation of an incredible ecosystem of individuals who really want to push the boundaries of what is possible and ensure that 5G adds value to both industry and society. Every experience within this team is such a positive and energetic one, and there is always the desire to challenge, listen and keep building on each other’s ideas. To my mind, to make anything successful, these are the key ingredients, and it is fantastic to see other similar ecosystems created all around the globe. It gives you a really strong feeling that 5G will be different. Within these systems, co-creation is the main differentiator from other collaborations I have been involved with in the past; it allows for a real flow of ideas and generates a high level of creativity.
A robotic arm illustrates the possibilities of 5G
At Mobile World Congress in Barcelona earlier this year, the team carried out our initial Internet of Skills demonstration, illustrating the ability to manipulate a robotic arm, sense what the robot was touching, and see everything taking place in a mock operating theater. We had more than 3,000 visitors including a lot of press and film crews; my good friend Kostas from King’s College became a bit of a celebrity.
The overwhelming feedback about the demo was that if 5G can provide the ability to see, hear and touch things remotely, imagine all the possible use cases… We had discussions about painting, playing instruments, fixing cars, disaster recovery, gaming… Even fishing was mentioned at one point. The level of engagement was intense and so rewarding.
5G can transform education
The feeling I had took me back to that first visit to the museum in London 30 years ago. The place was full of interactive displays that made learning about science so much more interesting and engaging than in the classroom. But coming from the northeast of England, I knew London was too far away for regular trips. I left feeling slightly empty, knowing I would have to wait a long time to go back again and become immersed in something I loved. And then I thought, wouldn’t it be good if in the future, you could go to the Science Museum without actually being there? Now, I believe this could finally be possible.
Even as a child, I had a natural curiosity about how things worked, wondering what else could be done and, most of all, dreaming about what life could be like in the future.
Another important childhood memory is of my uncle visiting with new gadgets, and his stories of what he experienced on his travels abroad. It was something that really resonated with me and I guess, on reflection, gave me the passion and ambition to keep exploring, working with others to see what technology could do and bring to society. 5G and the way we are working to develop it has really allowed me to do this.
Now we may have taken the first step in soon allowing schoolchildren in the north of England to visit the Science Museum in London as often as they like. And the idea of that made the excitable teenager of 30 years ago leave Mobile World Congress smiling.
Further reading on our collaboration with King’s College: