Turning ambition into reality: How NorthStar adds another gear for 5G
In a world grappling with climate change, the need for economically viable solutions to reduce environmental impact has never been more urgent. But, as enterprises are mobilizing to implement solutions, the green transition of whole industries hinges on a crucial factor - guaranteed, uninterrupted connectivity. Providing the connectivity platform to generate industry-wide change and societal value is the job of NorthStar.
Society needs business to step-up
NorthStar is not a research project. It's a real-life 5G test environment; an initiative that pulls together the best minds and partners to solve critical challenges, utilizing cutting-edge technology from Ericsson and Telia to achieve one clear objective: stress test what is possible in a real-world environment and provide the necessary data to push through the barriers to innovation.
In this blog, we will tell one story; how this 5G test environment is being used by AstaZero to expedite the era of self-driving vehicles, transforming the trucking industry as we know it and developing pioneering software that saves lives and unlocks profound environmental benefits. Ultimately, it’s a story about how AstaZero and NorthStar are joining forces to propel society into a safer and greener future.
Why it’s important - ants vs. elephants
Peter Janevik is the CEO of AstaZero, the NorthStar customer that is pioneering advancements in autonomous vehicle solutions and shaping the future transportation. When asked what NorthStar is helping him to realize, Peter, a visionary in his field, relays a compelling analogy comparing self-driving vehicles to ants.
In his vision of the future, bulky, elephantine vehicles transcend their clumsy, solitary existence to emulate the synergy of ants, moving and working harmoniously within a larger interconnected system.
“Just as ants use pheromones and other chemicals to send out the signals needed for coordination, vehicles will use connectivity to function as collaborative entities within a broader framework.”
Peter Janevik, CEO, AstaZero
The analogy of ants vs elephants - credit to its originator, Nils Jaeger from Volvo Autonomous Solutions, paints a vivid picture of the traditional transportation model left behind for its intrinsically inefficient and unsafe ‘elephant’ nature, instead becoming agile and interconnected.
But autonomous vehicles produce a colossal amount of data when they're in operation, and the connectivity that is tested through NorthStar must extend beyond mere vehicle-to-vehicle interaction, encompassing layers of ‘mission control’ communications that are vital for orchestrating a synchronized system.
NorthStar experiments with every possible scenario, from network disruption to efficiently transferring vast amounts of operational data. In short, NorthStar's capabilities address the evolving needs of the autonomous vehicle landscape. The system allows the sector to experiment with questions like: what happens if the connectivity goes down? And, how do we expediate the flow of data from the test vehicles to the R&D operations that actually develop the software for the vehicles? As depicted by the analogy of ants vs elephants, NorthStar becomes the catalyst for the metamorphosis of self-driving vehicles, helping AstaZero to shape the future of connected transportation ecosystems. But to experiment with such connectivity, we need real-world applications.
We need to find another gear to close the gap
Achieving real-world results in an innovation environment is no small feat. The program is committed to focusing on tangible outcomes, which means circumnavigating the natural commercial pressures of business and focusing on the long term societal reward.
Rather than looking to extract near-term return on investment, the data from the NorthStar test environment is used to develop services that support critical, long-term needs. But understanding and building new services takes time, the one thing we don’t have.
The goal therefore is to find another gear, an additional layer of capability to speed up the process and close the gap between ambition and execution, research and value creation. The key is in the collaboration. Telia’s expertise is not in healthcare, mining or transportation, but by working with the right partners in these sectors and focusing on making its initial set of customers successful, they can create an approach that they can scale for broader impact.
But to get these sectors in the room, we need to find ways to make them reach their own personal ‘A-HA!’ moment.
The power of demonstration
NorthStar is, at its core, a platform. A platform designed to go wherever the industry is based, to test live scenarios.
A Telia customer comes to NorthStar with something they want to achieve, a problem to solve, and we, Telia and Ericsson, come with what is possible within the capabilities of the 5G Core, so that all partners can collaborate.
This is exactly what happened with AstaZero.
The AstaZero demonstration illustrated the capabilities of the network, allowing engineers to control a vehicle remotely using a gaming controller. Simultaneously, during the remote drive, participants loaded the network with various levels of disruption, sent to the vehicle in order to test the impact of network bandwidth disturbances.
Engineers experimented with multiple high-resolution video streams and large data transfers from other vehicles and sources on the test ground, including a safety layer of data in the form of geo-fence function.
As the demonstration unfolded, attendees were drawn into an immersive experience that went beyond theory. Witnessing engineers seamlessly control a vehicle on a test circuit using a gaming controller sparked a profound awareness among participants. As the realization dawned that the latency - a persistent challenge in autonomous operations - had been eradicated, it induced the collective 'A-HA!' moment. That guaranteed, safe connectivity - and its potential impact on how we live and work - had suddenly become a reality.
This experience solidified the importance of testing in real world environments, and cemented confidence in the capabilities of next-generation networks. Experiences like these not only emphasize the practical applications but showcase the potential, a vital step towards imagining the possibilities for automation in various user cases. By providing the data to prove we can trust and control at scale, the best minds are freed to imagine what they could do with it.
A uniquely Swedish kind of leadership
The collaborative management style in Sweden aligns naturally with the requirements for 5G value creation, where business models are required to navigate a tricky landscape of unknowns and uncertainties, elements that typically don't align with conventional commercial practices.
For those who are ready to go beyond traditional boundaries and test these transformational technologies for societal and business value, the potential rewards are substantial. Success, as illustrated through case studies in mining and autonomous vehicles, hinges on the intersection of sustainability and economic viability. Consider the mining industry, where the focus is on mitigating risks for workers, extracting them from hazardous environments, and enhancing productivity by deploying connected machines and automation into areas deemed perilous for human presence. This not only translates to streamlined production processes and environmental sustainability but also saves lives.
Similarly, in the context of autonomous vehicles, electrification goes beyond reducing CO2 emissions; it simplifies urban and suburban living while tackling challenges like the shortage of drivers. The impact extends far beyond environmental considerations, encompassing the digitization of society, enhanced industry competitiveness, and ultimately, improving our quality of life. These tangible examples underscore the transformative potential when sustainability and economic viability converge.
With collaboration at its heart, it’s no surprise that it’s the Swedish industry that is taking the global lead with a project like NorthStar; Sweden ranks top of world's most innovative countries for the 16th year in a row: Sverige världens näst mest innovativa land | Patent- och registreringsverket (tt.se) And, where Western Europe is lagging behind other markets like the Americas and China when it comes to 5G rollout and use cases, NorthStar is aimed at closing this gap.
Tangible outcomes, a new gearbox for big societal changes
While the specific use cases for the future remain uncertain, what is certain is that reliance on a robust infrastructure is the crux of all future digital transformation, which is in itself essential to answering the environmental challenges we face.
By focusing on tangible outcomes within a trusted ecosystem of multidisciplinary experts, and by combining the latest technology with customer-driven innovation, NorthStar is already witnessing the materialization of its goals.
Being part of an ecosystem that brings together diverse expertise, ambitious goals and a commitment to making things real are key elements of the journey. And by leveraging its cultural power, NorthStar and its partners are well-positioned to turn ambition into reality, and bring practical advances, ensuring that the benefits of progress are felt by everyone in our interconnected world.
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