5G 'Smart Inspector' Robotic Solution at Hongkong Electric Co., Ltd

Hutchison Telecommunications (Hong Kong) Limited (HTHK) announced earlier in April, the successful deployment of its 5G “Smart Inspector” Robotic Solution by The Hongkong Electric Co., Ltd (HK Electric). The press release said:

The “Smart Inspector” is now “on board” at HK Electric responsible for round-the-clock surveillance and inspection of a confined cable tunnel, helping to keep power supply equipment safe and maintain reliable electricity supply. The solution utilises high-speed and low-latency 5G technology to comprehensively enhance patrolling efficiency in an enclosed tunnel area, further demonstrating a real-life scenario of the 5G robotic solution application.

Cable tunnels are an integral part of HK Electric's power transmission and distribution network. Most of them are confined spaces posing certain restrictions for staff during inspections. As a result, the power company plans to convert those cable tunnels to "smart cable tunnels" in phases, while deploying the "Smart Inspector" Robotic Solution at the same time.

The "Smart Inspector" Robotic Solution was first deployed at a HK Electric cable tunnel in Cyberport. The robot is authorised to enter and exit the tunnel, while in general only certified workers and staff are allowed to enter the tunnel for inspections.

With built-in cameras, as well as gas, humidity and temperature sensors, the “Smart Inspector” can detect the environment and inspect cable conditions inside the tunnel while collecting various data. This reduces the risks faced by staff when entering such confined spaces. The robot can also be remotely operated on 5G, and even have preset working schedules to automate tasks. Even in inclement weather conditions, it can continue to work and keep power supply equipment safe and maintain reliable electricity supply.

3Business, leveraging its professional experience, has installed 5G receivers in the cable tunnel, enabling high-speed signals to reach the entire tunnel and make real-time transmission of high-definition images and data possible. Furthermore, the team has also designed and implemented the entire solution, providing comprehensive support to elevate the operations of 5G robots in retail, catering and property management sectors to critical tasks in other sectors, helping meet the needs of various industries, accelerate their digital transformation journeys and promote the smart city development of Hong Kong.

The "Smart Inspector" Robotic Solution, tailored by HTHK’s 3Business team to meet the operational needs of HK Electric, has been a successful case of the "Subsidy Scheme for Encouraging Early Deployment of 5G" launched by the Office of the Communications Authority.

The LinkedIn post here shared photos of the robot.

While reporting this, an article in The Standard, Honk Kong said:

Andrew Yan Ka-wing, the head of construction and maintenance of the transmission and distribution division of HK Electric, said that the robot has saved both time and manpower by eliminating the need for extensive preparation work before each inspection.

"Traditionally, HK Electric would send a team of at least six individuals into the tunnel for inspections, with two personnel required to enter while others remained outside as a safety precaution," he said.

However, with the implementation of the advanced robot, this cumbersome process has become a thing of the past.

"The confined environment of the tunnel poses risks to human life, making gas detection and ventilation measures crucial to ensure the safety of staff," Yan said. "By deploying the robot, the company has eliminated the need for human entry, reducing potential hazards."

The Intelligent Steward, equipped with six cameras, including an infrared camera, a high-definition camera, and four standard-definition cameras, as well as sensors and gas detectors, captures images and records gas concentrations, humidity, and temperature within the tunnel.

The data is then transmitted to the offices. The robot's steady movement, facilitated by its two wheels, allows engineers to remotely control its positioning for further inspection of specific cables in the one-kilometer inclined tunnel.

To support seamless communication between staff inside the tunnel and those outside, HK Electric collaborated with Hutchison Telecommunications Hong Kong to establish a 5G network within the tunnel.

Previously, due to the lack of fiber-optic cables, radio walkie-talkies were used for communications. Now, staff members can easily connect with their colleagues outside the tunnel using their phones, while the robot continuously transmits data to the offices without any delays, thanks to the robust 5G network.

The project received a HK$500,000 subsidy from the Subsidy Scheme for Encouraging Early Deployment of 5G, indicating the significance and support for such innovative initiatives.

HK Electric plans to expand the 5G network to all cable tunnels and further enhance the capabilities of the remote control robot after a successful trial period, lasting three to six months.