The semi-automated control of port cranes is to be tested via mobile communications technology. The aim of the project is to increase the capacity of container handling operations. The state of North Rhine-Westphalia selected the project for funding via the 5G.NRW competition and will provide around one million euros over the next two years. The project was launched at a public kick-off event on November 3rd in the port of Duisburg, Europe’s largest inland port.
So far, semi-automated control of mobile cargo handling equipment in inland ports has not been possible. The project partners want to create the technical foundation for this in Duisburg for the first time. The University of Duisburg-Essen (UDE), Duisburger Hafen AG (duisport), startport GmbH, Deutsche Telekom and POLO KNOW-HOW Industrie-Engineering GmbH are involved. The research and development work are coordinated by Prof. Andreas Stöhr from the UDE's engineering department. "We want to develop and test innovative logistics solutions based on 5G in Duisburg on parts of Europe's largest inland port," he says.
In a blog post recently (in German), they expanded on this campus network. Selected extracts (translated by Google) as follows:
Prof. Dr. Andreas Stöhr researches software solutions for crane systems at the University of Duisburg-Essen and provides scientific support for the project. He knows what container cranes can do – today and in the future. According to Stöhr, the 5G project by Telekom and its partners is “about the digitization of all units in the port that are required for semi-automatic crane travel”. Background, according to the expert: “There are a lot of trains and trucks here. And we need to capture these units digitally if we want to be able to partially automate crane travel in the future.”
The aim is not to make crane drivers superfluous at the port with the help of cameras, sensors, 5G and special SIM cards in the cranes. Rather, the new systems should make their work easier. The focus is on fast, efficient processes and security, says Prof. Dr. Stöhr: "In order to have a crane drive automatically, we have to significantly upgrade the area monitoring here. That means we have to bring a lot of cameras close to the crane that analyzes the entire environment. The data rates that we stream into the network only work with 5G. Only the 5G cell offers enough capacity for this.”
Startport Managing Director Johannes Franke explains how complex and networked modern logistics have become at an inland port like Duisburg with a few figures: “When you think of a port, you only think of ships. There are 20,000 ships heading for us here every year. Much more important, however, is the rail transshipment in the port. We have 25,000 trains a year that are dispatched here. And of course that also has to be synchronized with the trucks.” For example, they come to the port to deliver containers over the last mile. "We have three modes of transport here that have to be synchronized," explains the innovation expert. With its partial automation, Duisburg's "data-like-airport" is becoming a role model and innovator, according to Johannes Franke: "No other inland port has had that before".
In order for the 5G applications to run, Deutsche Telekom is equipping the port area with its own 5G "dual slice" campus network. This is a locally limited mobile network that is individually tailored to the technical needs of the port. Antje Williams is Senior Vice President for 5G Campus Networks at Telekom. She explains how this technology works and the advantages: “We used our public mobile network here. We are building a so-called campus on this public mobile network. We offer customers a special quality so that they can use their data in a shielded manner to use these industrial applications.” The port operators can prioritize and preferentially transmit their own data in the campus network – in their own “fast lane” in 5G, so to speak -Network.
You can watch the video (in German with English subtitles) on this topic below:
According to a recent report by GSA, seaports are one of the top 10 sectors for deployments of private networks.