Innovation in public places: how new connectivity solutions are transforming Ireland.

Ken McGrath
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On: 29 Jan 2020
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Dublin Public Sector

The impact of what the World Economic Forum famously termed Industry 4.0, a new industrial revolution built on digital technologies, is a hot topic among businesses but the scale of innovation around it in the public sector is often less appreciated.

In Ireland there has been flurry of activity spanning mobility, big data, security and eHealth. The transformational impact of a new wave of connectivity solutions can be seen across a diverse range of projects spanning emergency services, primary care, education, communities and government. It’s a quiet revolution that is only likely to gather pace in 2020 as emerging technologies like AI, machine learning, 5G, and IoT (Internet of Things) take hold.

The rise of smart cities and smart government.

Smart cities and smart governments focus on using data and technologies such as Internet of Things (IoT) to increase operational efficiencies, reduce pollution, improve sustainability and enhance quality of life for people living and working there. Initiatives to improve everything from the environment to healthcare are already underway, here in Ireland; Cork, Dublin and Galway are at the forefront of this innovation, in addition to universities and rural communities.   

Pre-empting problems through predictive analytics.

Perhaps the biggest opportunity to government, centrally and locally, will be the insights contained in aggregated data from connected devices and IoT sensors. Applying AI and machine learning to these vast pools of data will take evidence-based decision-making to a new level, with the potential to transform the way the public sector invests in infrastructure and services.

For the first time, using cutting edge data analytics technologies we can analyse anonymised and aggregated data collected from mobile phone users to give insight on the flow of people, traffic and public transport. This will be invaluable for city planners, helping them better plan their strategies through more informed decision making.

Intelligent transport systems and automated driving.

It is anticipated with the advent of 5G that new smart transport technologies will enable users to be better informed and make safer, more coordinated, and smarter use of transport networks. Yet, there is a lot of unknowns on what the impact of autonomous vehicles will be.

NUI Galway’s College of Engineering must be unique in considering how the environment impacts the performance of self-driving cars. Using a 5G cell provided by Three and sensors from automotive technology company Valeo, self-driving vehicles will be tested on campus, in all sorts of weather and lighting conditions (it is the west of Ireland after all). It’s a great example of academia and industry working together on pioneering research.

Enabling the strategic use of ICT to deliver improved healthcare.

5G will enable caregivers to perform remote monitoring and treatment, anytime. Applying sensors to wearable devices can also advance remote treatment, potentially freeing up hospital beds, while personalising patient care.

We are currently exploring opportunities with a cohort of public sector agencies, collaborating to build an IoT solution to support elderly care in the home. Like a lot of our new solutions, this was showcased on Arranmore Island, where sensors were installed in homes as an assisted living solution to monitor everyday activity and ensure elderly residents are active and well.

High-speed connectivity can also shift the point of patient care from hospitals to GPs. On Arranmore we saw how the local GP was able to send and receive large medical imagery and files in the practice. There is model here for enabling doctors to provide more treatment locally and relieve the pressure on hospital appointments. This is particularly important in the management of chronic health conditions, where regular monitoring of patients can prevent disorders from progressing to life-threatening levels.

Mobilising communities.

In addition to assisted living solutions Three has conducted a lot of work on the island of Arranmore around remote working, providing fast internet speeds with tried-and-tested mobile solutions that have a vital role to play in rural parts of Ireland, where fixed-line connectivity is still a challenge. We have also been working with Grow Remote, a community-based crowd sourcing organisation that promotes rural home working as an antidote to increasingly congested cities. Expect this to be a growing trend in the years ahead.

Connected learning.

Connected learning has made the old definitions of a classroom obsolete. Mobile technologies can enable, support or enhance access to education providing a gateway to the best educators to those in the most remote or underprivileged communities.

Access to connectivity and technology plays a vital role in enabling new education opportunities. The Aphort National School on Arranmore is now using online learning and collaboration tools for the first time.

Digital technologies have been responsible for a period of unprecedented change that will only accelerate with the imminent arrival of 5G. The adoption of connected technologies will enable public sector organisations to optimise energy efficiency, infrastructure, public safety, emergency responses and more.

Three’s Business Learning Centre features a range of eGuides, blogs and videos specific to the public sector. Visit connected.three.ie/public to join our online community.