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How smart ports using 5G and AI will change the Future of logistics

As the world goes digital, ports are under pressure to add intelligence to their equipment, enhance their technological infrastructure, and mine data value. Digitalization is both a challenge and an opportunity.

Image source: Huawei

To help ports go digital, companies like Huawei have developed a range of solutions based on 5G, AI, Port Intelligent Twins.


The different solutions function as the brain, arms, legs, and eyes of the port.


Brain — Smart Container Planning


Planning is the starting point at any port, impacting operational efficiency. Huawei uses AI to enable intelligent planning, helping ports optimize every step of their production efficiency.


Arms — Remote Control with an Optical Network


Conventional terminal operations are time-consuming and labour-intensive. Operators have to work in harsh environments without food or drink for several hours. Quay crane (QC) drivers usually work at a height of 40 m above the ground, at the risk of occupational diseases.


Huawei's remote control solution for QCs and yard cranes (YCs) relies on an optical network. Operators can work remotely from air-conditioned rooms in urban areas, enjoying more safety and comfort as well as shorter commutes. Plus, the solution features high bandwidth, low latency, enhanced security and reliability, simplicity, and easy O&M.


Legs — Smart Horizontal Transport


Ports usually run 24/7. As such, internal container truck drivers typically work in three shifts, facing safety risks and high workloads. Even so, manual dispatching fails to refine plans for complex situations, resulting in low resource utilisation.


Huawei's smart horizontal transport solution builds smart clouds, vehicles, and roads. The solution features global path planning, high-precision positioning, an MDC platform that integrates lidars, mmWave radars, and cameras, core system integration, and cloud-vehicle decoupling.


These features enable autonomous driving, intelligent obstacle avoidance, and adaptive cruise control, reducing safety risks and increasing operational efficiency by 20%.


Eyes — Smart Production Security


Safety and security are critical at ports and automated terminals require an all-weather security assurance system. Now, new innovations such as a smart production security solution enable terminals to avoid safety risks.


Smart Customs: Open, Controllable, and Fast


Manual inspection usually takes a long time, slowing down customs clearance. Another important issue is ineffective supervision, which negatively impacts trade. To address these issues, solutions have been designed to enable openness, easy control, fast access, and quality services.


Remote Inspection


Huawei's one-stop customs video inspection solution facilitates online, mobile, and video-based inspections.


Customs authorities and enterprises can now interact online instead of performing on-site checks. This leads to faster inspection services and reduces labour and time costs for both customs authorities and enterprises.


Smart Gates


Huawei has also designed a smart gate solution that improves the efficiency at inspection entry and exit points. Gates would often see a lot of congestions and there were many manual tasks. With contactless supervision, inspections are faster and more collaborative; plus, drivers don't need to leave their trucks for clearance.


In October last year, Huawei established its Customs and Port Team to foray into the sector. The group is committed to integrating the company's leading ICTs — such as 5G, AI, big data, and cloud — to deepen the Huawei’s understanding of customer needs and respond to them faster.



The growth in smart ports will be mainly spurred by private 5G – mobile networks that use the same technology as public 5G networks, but allow their owners to provide priority access or require licences to access them.


As global rollouts of public 5G continue at a staggering pace, private 5G is already here and is being quietly hailed as a “game-changer” for enterprise.


The notion of private networks has been around for a while, beginning with the use of 4G LTE Wi-Fi technology, but the technology’s potential remained limited. This changed when regulators opened up spectrum for private 5G.


In order to build a private 5G network, an enterprise must buy spectrum from governments, mobile network operators or third-party spectrum providers. They can then use that spectrum to deploy a private wireless network at facilities that require coverage, speed and security capabilities beyond that offered by Wi-Fi and other network technologies.


“Private 5G represents the future of connectivity for a host of industries and large sites, from ports, factories and schools to military bases,” Marc Overton, managing director of BT Enterprise’s Division X says. “These networks are fast, secure, provide both indoor and outdoor cellular coverage and can handle large amounts of data.”



Overton adds that 5G provides more reliable and much faster connectivity, enabling businesses to manage greater data volumes to help making real-time decisions in complex situations.


Yet they provide several more benefits beyond lightning-fast speed, low latency and secure connectivity.


“[Private 5G] provides the foundation to overlay a range of other new technologies including internet-of-things, artificial intelligence, virtual reality and augmented reality, and in doing so opens up a wealth of opportunities for businesses,” says Overton.


“This will help to increase automation, drive efficiencies and usher in a new era of smart tech processes and applications.”





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