Technology

Finnish telecoms operator explores the power of 5G

2 June 2020 | By Stephen Cousins

Detail 3D models streamed live to smartphones and heavy machines operated from more than 150km away are among the 5G-enabled innovations being demonstrated by Finland’s largest telecoms operator.

Elisa worked with cross-sector partners to develop nine 5G solutions and services, of which three are world-firsts with direct applications for construction. All are currently on display at the company’s showroom in Helsinki.

The prototype smartphone app was developed in collaboration with Aalto University and exploits the ultra-low latency and high bandwidth of 5G to stream multi-gigabit rendered 3D models, including construction and furnishings, over the cloud in real-time. Such data-intensive models would normally have to be downloaded to a PC or laptop to be viewed.

Similar to video streaming services, like Netflix, 3D models are converted into high resolution video that is streamed on-the-fly to devices. Models can be viewed from multiple angles by touching the screen, however at present they cannot be modified via the phone.

Kimmo Pentikäinen, vice president for business development at Elisa, told BIM+: “We envisage the tool being used to crowdsource feedback and insights on the building design from different end user groups.”

The partners are currently developing a second iteration of the prototype that can display larger 3D construction models that will be trialled on a real project.

The prototype tractor can be controlled remotely from 150km away

Elisa worked with tractor manufacturer Valtra to develop and build a tractor that can be operated remotely using 5G and a video link to a 360-degree camera.

The tractor, located in Raisio about 150km from Helsinki, was remotely controlled by a driver using duplicate versions of controls located in the Finnish capital. The full 4K view of the environment was captured by a camera installed on the roof of the tractor.

Latency for control was just 20 milliseconds, despite the long distance, however the 360 video stream had a longer delay of around two seconds, which could be reduced by contracting the field of view.

Pentikäinen commented: “There are lots of potential use cases for 5G remote control in construction. Fully autonomous vehicles may take years to enter daily life, but there will still be a need for semi-automated heavy machines that require live monitoring by a human. There may be a need for 100% manual control from a remote location, for example to enable 24/7 operations in a controlled site environment.”

The drone demonstration broadcast 8K resolution, 360-degree video for the first time

The drone demonstration broadcast 8K resolution, 360-degree video for the first time over 5G. A 4K version, that can be experienced by visitors to the showroom, broadcasts a drone video stream of the seashore in Jätkäsaari, Helsinki to a virtual reality headset.

According to Pentikäinen, the extremely sharp, real-time video footage offers an opportunity to create new forms of aerial site survey that are viewable from any angle. High definition images could support on-the-fly machine learning and object recognition to, for example, detect how a build is progressing compared to the design and update BIM.