As part of the government’s 5G strategy for the UK, global innovation hub, Sensor City, has been awarded a £3.5m grant to investigate the opportunities of 5G community Wi-Fi in health and social care.

The government’s strategy aims to keep Britain at the forefront of connectivity by accelerating the deployment of next generation digital infrastructure and driving forward new 5G business opportunities. Spearheaded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), the 5G Testbeds and Trials programme, will see consortiums across the country receive between £2 million and £5 million government grants of a £25 million competition, as part of a total investment of £41 million from private and public sector funding.

Sensor City will lead a consortium made up of public sector health suppliers, the NHS, university researchers, local SMEs and a leading UK 5G technology vendor to explore fifth generation mobile communications technologies.

Funded for one year in the first instance, the project will see high value technologies including low-cost open source 5G networks, artificial intelligence, virtual reality and the Internet of Things deployed across deprived communities in the Liverpool City Region test bed

The consortium will use this technology to reduce the digital divide, while measuring the impact on patient monitoring and support, management of loneliness in older adults, aid to independents living in the home and the facilitation of communication between hospitals and the community.

Margot James, Minister of State for Digital and the Creative Industries, said: “One year on from the Digital Strategy, we are delivering on our commitments to create a Britain fit for the future, with a thriving digital economy that works for everyone.

“The ground-breaking project announced for Liverpool today will help to unlock 5G and ensure the benefits of this new technology are felt across the economy and wider society.”

Alison Mitchell, executive director at Sensor City, said: “Sensor City is proud to lead on what is set to be a truly groundbreaking project with a consortium of like-minded partners. The Government’s 5G strategy for the UK presents a fantastic opportunity to transform the lives of many, especially through health and social care, so I think I speak for all partners when I say we’re excited to see this work unfold over the next five years.”

Discussing the grant and what it will mean for health and social care, Professor Joe Spencer of the University of Liverpool and academic lead for Sensor City, explained: “A successful demonstration of a 5G testbed in health and social care will see the development of new, innovative and disruptive technologies that will help to bridge the digital divide in the UK, especially in deprived communities.

“5G Wi-Fi will not only enable the development of new cost-effective products and services to address real needs and demand, but also bring huge social and economic benefits for the most vulnerable in society, while reducing the demand on hospital-based services.”

Professor Robin Leatherbarrow, LJMU Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Scholarship, Research & Knowledge Transfer, added: “This fantastic project shows the power of research and enterprise to drive transformation across social, cultural and economic boundaries. It also demonstrates the benefits of sharing expertise, and of people coming together with a common purpose, to improve lives in the Liverpool City Region.”

From the Orkney Islands to the West of England, DCMS has announced six testbeds led by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), universities and local authorities to represent the best of UK innovation, resources and expertise.

They will test 5G across a range of applications, including smart farming with drones, using the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) to improve healthcare in the home, increasing manufacturing productivity and maximising the future benefits of self-driving cars.

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