• The port is testing '5G Maritime', a geolocation pilot that uses a pioneering technological solution that combines AI, cloud computing, 5G and edge computing
  • This solution provides information on the geolocation of the ships complementing the information of the identification systems currently used by the Control Tower
  • Framed in the 5G Barcelona initiative and promoted by the Port of Barcelona with the support of the Ministry of Digital Policies, the project brings together leading technology partners such as IBM, Vodafone, Huawei, Mobile World Capital Barcelona and i2CAT
5G Connectivity and Artificial Intelligence Will Provide Accurate Real-Time Geoposition of Boats in the Port of Barcelona
Last July, the Port of Barcelona began the pilot test '5G Maritime', a project aiming at validating the location of ships in real time and great precision, obtaining data from images that complement the information of the current geolocation systems of the port (AIS geoposition system and radar). The pilot is based on a pioneer technological solution that combines artificial intelligence and cloud computing with edge computing technology (edge computing are computational processes performed at the end of the user’s closest network to avoid sending big data and processing on servers or distant data centres, significantly reducing latency and improving bandwidth consumption) and ultrafast and low latency communications with a commercial 5G network.

Around 9,000 ships per year dock at the Port of Barcelona. These are boats of very different characteristics and sizes, reaching 400 meters in length (about twice the length of a football field). Having very accurate and real-time information about its movements and geolocation is essential not only to optimize the mooring space, but also to offer as much security as possible to ships and port services when making movements.

'5G Maritime' emerges with the aim of helping the Port of Barcelona optimise maritime traffic management, improving safety and sustainability thanks to complete information on ships, their situation and the actions of the various port services. It is a project framed in the 5G Barcelona initiative and promoted by the Port of Barcelona, IBM, Vodafone, Huawei, Mobile World Capital Barcelona and i2CAT Foundation, with the support of the Ministry of Digital Policies of the Catalan Government within the framework of the 5G Strategy of Catalonia.

The technological solution enables the obtention of prow and stern geoposition and motion indicator of the ship with high precision, facilitating remote assistance to navigation. The marine pilot of the port will accurately estimate valuable information for the entry and docking operations of boats in the port, such as the location of various ships sailing through the docks of the Port of Barcelona, their direction or even the speed of the ship, all from the analysis of the video from 5G cameras installed around the port.

The project was presented by Jordi Puigneró, Minister of Digital Policies and Public Administration of the Catalan Government; Mercè Conesa, President of the Port of Barcelona; Marc Estapé, Director of IBM Catalonia and Balearic Islands; Laura Molist, Territorial Director of Vodafone in Catalonia and Aragon; Eduard Martín, Director of the 5G Programme of Mobile World Capital Barcelona and CEO of 5G Barcelona; and Vicente Zhong, Regional Director for North and East Huawei Spain.

At the event, Jordi Puigneró, Minister of Digital Policies, highlighted "the importance of this project linked to one of the country's capital infrastructures and to logistics, also a key sector of the Catalan economy, which is part of the Government's 5G Strategy and the alliance with the Port of Barcelona to accelerate its digitization and turn it into a benchmark SmartPort". In addition, the minister added that "projects like this enable us to anticipate the impact of 5G and other advanced technologies on different areas of our society and as engines of reactivation and revitalization of the Catalan economy with the promotion of this new technology industry and, above all, new jobs".

In addition, Eduard Martín, Director of the 5G Programme of Mobile World Capital Barcelona and CEO of 5G Barcelona, pointed out that "this is a pioneering pilot test in the field of logistics in which the application of 5G in port environments will facilitate the improvement and automation of processes and increase the safety and efficiency of these operations".

On the other hand, Marc Estapé, Director of IBM Catalonia and Balearic Islands, commented that "the combination of artificial intelligence with Edge Computing and cloud technologies in an ultrafast communications environment makes this pilot test a pioneer in the industry, which drives us to obtain a high degree of precision in the recognition of port images with the consequent increase in optimization".

Likewise, Laura Molist, Vodafone's Regional Director in Catalonia and Aragon, commented that "public-private collaboration is essential to accelerate the development of 5G use cases, which enables us to take advantage of the best knowledge and efficiency of the private sector, with the interests of the public sector to develop a powerful digital ecosystem adapted to the new technologies".

Vicente Zhong, Regional Director for North and East Huawei Spain, explained that "Huawei is proud of participating in this 5G innovation project in Port Barcelona, contributing to the technological knowledge and R&D capabilities to contribute to the digitization of Catalonia. This 'Maritime' project is undoubtedly a clear example of how 5G technology and AI will play a key role in this fourth industrial revolution".

Finally, Mercè Conesa, President of the Port of Barcelona, explained that "a network of cameras connected by 5G technology would represent an important advance in safety for maritime traffic in the Port of Barcelona. However, it would not only help us improve safety and prevention in the port area, but it would also contribute to the optimisation of the management of docks. In addition, it would make it easier for everyday work regarding port services –marine pilots, tugboats, moorings–".  

A pioneering technical deployment

The technological solution consists of the following elements:

1) An artificial intelligence model –IBM Maximo Visual Insights–, created by IBM and trained in IBM Cloud to recognise ships as well as their bows and sterns.

2) Two sets of high-performance cameras and Huawei 5G terminals located in the port capture in real time the entry of the ships.

3) Ultrafast and low-latency communications provided by Vodafone's commercial 5G network transfer the images to the server, the AI model is executed on the images received, which recognises and interprets them.

The artificial intelligence model is distributed to a server located in the control tower of the port using IBM Edge Application technologies. Subsequently, a geolocation algorithm translates the pixels of the images into geographic coordinates of latitude and longitude. Finally, this geolocation data is integrated with the rest of the Port's systems. The result is that the Port of Barcelona obtains more accurate real time information about the location of the ships.