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Progressive Partnerships Making Positive Change

Rogers and UBC are teaming up to advance the possibilities of 5G

What happens when advanced technology meets creative innovators? In short, it changes the world. It benefits how we live our lives; how industries operate; how we keep our families safe.

This is the vision behind Rogers investing in universities across Canada. With the recognition that academic researchers and their students can harness the power of 5G for real-world applications, Rogers has fostered strong partnerships to explore the possibilities and implement progressive solutions for Canada’s citizens and businesses, thus strengthening the economy and positioning the country as a leader in smart technologies.

Partnering with UBC

In 2019, The University of British Columbia became the first Canadian campus to be fully equipped with 5G wireless technology. “UBC was one of the first 5G partnerships we signed in Canada, about three years ago,” says Rick Sellers, President of B.C. Region, Rogers Communications. “It’s part of a multi-million-dollar investment we’re making with some of the leading institutions in Canada for research and development.”

With Rogers 5G network and multi-access edge computing (MEC), the campus serves as a wireless living lab where students can collaborate with faculty on 5G solutions to address both local and global challenges.

“We were looking for a place where we could actually trial and create a roadmap around 5G applications,” explains Neel Dayal, Senior Director of Innovation and Partnerships at Rogers. “Because of the breadth of research domains and expertise that the university has, UBC sort of rose to the top.”

Solving modern-day challenges

The key feature of 5G wireless technology is its low latency. Combined with multi-edge computing capability, it allows the network to transport and process mass amounts of data almost instantly, enabling advanced technologies such as autonomous vehicles and drones. It also opens up significant possibilities for predictive analysis and response that can mitigate the consequences of accidents or disasters through prevention and early warnings.

Smart transportation

The alliance with Rogers has allowed UBC researchers to create Smart City traffic management systems. Using data collected from LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) sensors, the lab analyzes the patterns and generates reports to assist city planners and workers. According to Dr. David Michelson, Associate Professor in UBC’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, “The ultimate goal is to improve road safety, to reduce traffic congestion and to enhance commercial vehicle operations and efficiencies.”

Not only does the technology help administrators to manage infrastructure more effectively, but it also serves to moderate the human factor in accidents. An app can indicate the colour of the light signal at approaching intersections, and emit audio alerts to the driver if the vehicle gets too close to cyclists or pedestrians. Smart transportation methods can better visualize traffic flow by evaluating how many cars are waiting, and adjust traffic signals accordingly. Similarly, it can ensure that the intersection is clear for emergency vehicles.

Digital mining

Canada is noted for its vast mining industry, where safety and productivity are prime concerns. Digital mining technology minimizes human error through the use of autonomous trucks that operate independently on the site and perform predictive maintenance. UBC is currently programming small vehicles and testing them remotely on the campus.

Professor Ilija Miskovic, Director of UBC’s Laboratory for Accelerated Discovery in Resources Engineering, points out the ramifications of advancing innovation in digital mining. “The timely detection of potential problems is extremely important because failures of mining trucks can cause enormous costs in the orders of millions. The low-latency service enables almost real-time processing of vehicle sensory information that can be used to optimize trucks and provide a safer and more secure working environment at the mine site.”

Early earthquake warning

Canada’s Pacific coast is the most earthquake-prone region in the country, due to the presence of active faults in the earth’s crust; and researchers at UBC have studied risk assessment in depth. Seismic sensors can detect the first energy radiating from an earthquake and anticipate the arrival of the stronger waves to follow. With the low latency of 5G sensors, AI algorithms can collect data quickly and help people take preventative steps.

“When you have a large disaster like an earthquake, critical infrastructure like the power grid, the water system, transportation system, they all get affected,” says Dr. Jose Marti, Professor in UBC’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “You can reinforce the system before the disaster happens, and then you can bring the system back up as quickly as possible.” An effective early warning system can save lives through measures such as improving emergency response, diverting traffic from bridges and tunnels, halting surgeries and disabling critical infrastructure.

Looking ahead

Rogers understands the massive impact that 5G technology will make on our world, and their collaboration with talented researchers promises positive solutions to pressing challenges. With the facilitation of the link between advanced technology and enlightened academia, young innovators will gain skills in computer science, machine learning, applied mathematics, software development: all valuable assets for future careers.

The Rogers team is excited about the range of possibilities at UBC. As Neel Dayal explains, “[UBC has] a great academic community among many disciplines that allows us to really take advantage of that ideation potential that’s there.” Rick Sellers echoes his confidence, and foresees the work at UBC as a beginning: “UBC was a great testbed in order for us to be able to come up with some applications that are usable and deliverable to multiple organizations across Canada.”

The partnership is a winning solution, empowering young minds to change the world through the immense capacity of 5G technology.

Learn more about Rogers and 5G as well as our 5G work with the University of Waterloo.