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Digitalizing port operations with 5G

For centuries, the Port of Livorno has been the gateway to Tuscany and its iconic cities of Florence, Pisa, and Siena. During the Renaissance, Italy became a cultural pioneer through the exportation of beautiful fashions, innovative designs and delicious food.

From cargo to cruise liners

Today, over 30 million tons of cargo, 7,000 ships and 2.5 million tourists travel through the Port of Livorno every year, making it one of the largest ports in the Mediterranean Sea and essential for Tuscany’s commercial and leisure industries.

This is set to continue in the Port of Livorno’s latest collaboration with Ericsson and CNIT. “We want to let the port evolve,” says Dr. Paolo Pagano, Director of the Innovation Service Center, a joint technological initiative undertaken by CNIT and the Livorno Port Authority. “Livorno provides remarkable research and development for the world of Intelligent Transportation Systems. A notable initiative is that lead by ETSI and ERTICO which looks at vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications.”


A new age of discovery

The partners are carrying out groundbreaking research into creating a digitally connected harbor. They are exploring how sensors, cameras and devices can connect to a network infrastructure, creating an integrated communications system. As such, machines, devices and humans will be able to share information instantly and seamlessly.

This could transform operations for instance, when a container has just been unloaded from the vessel. Instead of contacting the distribution center by phone and asking them to move the container to a specific destination, an intelligent infrastructure allows the container to communicate directly with both the target destination as well as all machines and humans along the supply chain.

Shipping containers at a port

A proof of concept has been planned at the Port of Livorno to demonstrate automated remote control of unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) for loading and unloading operations in the port area. The expectation is that the robots will cooperate by working in swarms, exploiting the technology of cloud and distributed computing. UGVs and connected vehicles together with a large set of scalar sensors will feature both M2M and remote controls.

With the many different departments operating at seaports, including coastguards, customs, the police, the transport authorities and other institutional bodies, being able to share data on common functions in this way promotes a smarter, safer and more efficient working environment.

Collaborative research and technology innovation means that the connected port is becoming a reality, and a key ingredient to making it happen is 5G.

5G will provide fast and high bandwidth and is an ideal platform for standardized and seamless communications: “5G enables prompt communication and does not distinguish between vehicles, humans and implanted sensors, as they share the same access technology”, explains Dr. Paolo Pagano.

A connected port brings more vessels, more trade and an increase in sustainable development, which will open up Tuscany and the Port of Livorno to many new opportunities.

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Focus on

Optimizing transportation logistics

As an integrated platform where man and machine work together, seaports are remarkable ‘smart spaces’ for 5G.

Optimizing transportation logistics is a key part of the Internet of Things (IoT), with the potential to connect millions of shipments and passengers. It could also track goods more accurately, efficiently and securely, as well as improve decision making with real-time analytics.

Ericsson has partnered with some of the sea transportation industry’s key players, including cargo and cruise liners, to develop research on the 5G connected port. As part of the collaboration, they agree to consider the Port of Livorno as a prominent testbed within the European scope.

In the cargo sector, Ericsson plans to deploy solutions that to date have only been tested on drones by the military for defense purposes.

By using the latest technological innovations to leverage port communications at all stages of the supply chain, Ericsson and its partners hope to revolutionize transport logistics with a more integrated, resourceful and seamless solution. It also provides an opportunity for the port to become an even greater part of the cruise tourism experience, offering more passengers a new point of interest on their holiday.

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