The next phase of the Liverpool 5G Create project has shown further examples of how affordable connectivity is and the difference free 5G technology makes to digital public sector services, with two deployments at a local primary school and a care home.
A £7.2m Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS)-funded project, part of the 5G Testbeds and Trials Programme, the Liverpool 5G Health and Social Care Testbed began operation in April 2018, with the Liverpool 5G Create: Connecting Health and Social Care project, announced in August 2020, setting out to develop a private, independent 5G network for health and social care services in selected areas of the city.
Liverpool 5G Create is led by the University of Liverpool, with partners Liverpool City Council, Blu Wireless Technology, Broadway Partners, Liverpool John Moores University, CGA Simulation, Docobo, NHS Liverpool Clinical Commissioning Group and Merseycare NHS Foundation Trust. The project will be managed and supported by the eHealth Cluster, with further services supplied by Telet Research (NI), Aimes Management Services and Real Wireless.
Liverpool 5G Create offers services that need connectivity to volunteers from the city’s Kensington community, with no charge to them for connectivity. The project’s 5G “network of networks” uses council-owned assets to provide a network that incorporates LoRaWAN, Wi-Fi and cellular 5G. The network employs 5G small cells, deployed on a mesh network that relies on the proximity of “line of sight” to work efficiently, which is particularly of benefit to support the kind of public sector technologies the project aims to deliver, needing a power source that delivers the same power as a handset to work efficiently.
Among the technologies trialled by the community were 5G-supported remote GP consultations, online wound management, a haptic (remote hug) shirt, care home sensors, an anti-anxiety app for children under eight, and support for children learning at home during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The new demos are being unveiled to senior UK government officials at Phoenix Primary School in the Kensington area of the city which receives a free 5G connection thanks to Liverpool 5G’s public sector network, and at Rowan Garth Care Home.
In the school, 5G connectivity helps children with online learning at home and supports an anti-anxiety game accessed on Chromebooks provided by Liverpool City Council. The Chill Panda game was created by Liverpool games developer CGA Studio Games, and co-designed by child psychologist Caroline Belcher. It uses recognised psychology methods, such as breathing exercises, yoga, mini games and heart-rate monitoring on wearables, all supported by 5G technology.
Meanwhile, residents at Rowan Garth Care Home are using Vitalerter, an under-the-bed sensor that prevents falls and pressure sores by alerting care staff to changes in a resident’s sleep patterns and movements. Hug Vest, also being trialled at Rowan Garth uses a 5G-supported app to give residents a “haptic hug” from a friend or relative.
A recent collaboration with Eden Universe, part of the Eden Project in Cornwall, also a DCMS-funded 5G project, saw residents at the care home use 5G-supported virtual reality headsets and iPads to sample a virtual day out at the Eden Project – enjoying specially curated video content.
Kensington Community Learning Centre will host two further technologies. Docobo is being used by Merseycare to remotely monitor patients with oedema (water retention and swelling), while MySense uses artificial intelligence to assess nutrition, hydration and activity for patients in the community, alongside a smartwatch to monitor heart rate.
“Ministers will learn how we’re able to offer the 5G connection free to volunteers in Kensington thanks to a ground-breaking partnership with Liverpool City Council,” said Liverpool 5G Creates project director Rosemary Kay. “The project used council-owned assets – fibre, street furniture and buildings – to create the network of networks – one of the largest private public sector 5G networks in Europe.
“This ambitious partnership builds on Liverpool’s existing assets, proving cities can find sustainable solutions to digital deprivation, while offering public sector technologies to everyone, regardless of their ability to afford a reliable connection.”
The project supports Liverpool City Council’s commitment to bridge the digital divide in the city, supported by post-pandemic pledges to address inequalities in health, education and inclusion, all of which are key principles in the City Plan.
Frazer Lake, Liverpool City Council cabinet member for adult and children’s social care, said: “We know there is a digital divide in the city, and this was really brought home to us during the pandemic. It is now getting harder and harder to complete daily tasks if you are excluded from, or not confident with, technology, but technology can also bring incredible benefits that help people to live happier and more independent lives.
“What is being achieved through Liverpool 5G Create gives incredible insight into the breadth of benefits that technology can bring from our youngest to our oldest citizens.”