Professor Adam Beaumont, chief executive and founder of aql, told The Yorkshire Post that the location of the city’s data centres meant it was the perfect location to handle innovations which will require rapid real time decision-making by new technologies.
Unlike most cities, Leeds’s data centres are all located in and around the city centre, meaning that the transfer of data to our central computing centres can happen rapidly.
This would mean that innovations such as driverless cars, robotic surgery, and logistics operations being carried out by drones and other driverless vehicles could be effectively piloted in Leeds.
As the Government prepares to invest money into piloting what the so-called 5G network can achieve, Professor Beaumont believes that Leeds’s digital infrastructure makes it the obvious location to do this.
“It’s important to acknowledge the existing infrastructure that Leeds already has in place and how that makes it an ideal platform for this kind of technology,” he said.
“5G is a technology which is just starting to crystallise. It is basically the next standard of mobile communications.
“If you have a connectivity like 5G you need to consider what are the best use cases. These include autonomous vehicles, self-parking vehicles, self-docking logistics. In essence the idea would be to free up prime city centre real estate used for parking, by allowing people to drive into city, be dropped off and have a car which will go and park itself.”
He added: “There is Government money available for exploring what 5G looks like. I believe that that money will be better spent and more efficiently spent in Leeds because we do not have to establish some of the fundamental infrastructure in the city to make it happen.
“That connectivity between the innovators is really a piece of serendipity and it has not been engineered by accident.
“Leeds has a few things in its favour. One of which is the central piece of plumbing. Because of its logical location, it has also attracted the co-location of main nodes, for example the UK academic network, known as JANET.
“Pretty much all the traffic between the north and south’s universities passes through us and that includes all of the universities and the teaching hospitals.
“Most driverless car pilots are going to be run in conjunction with universities so we are in this perfect plumbing position to allow these trials to happen.”
Professor Beaumont added that while these innovations would automate some jobs, they would create new ones in fields such as cyber security and data management.
“I think we are a year or two away from rolling out 5G infrastructure. These are new jobs and the innovation in 5G will be to create a new platform for many jobs.
“The idea of autonomous delivery vehicles that also extends to robots and drones and the challenge of controlling those in a city centre all depends on the right infrastructure being created to support high frequency decision-making. So 5G will create an environment to allow us to build a far more automated city.
“It will de-clutter city centres, allowing them to be more pedestrianised.
“With micro deliveries, we won’t need to have large delivery vehicles coming into the city centre.”
Regarding remote surgery and remote patient care, Adam Beaumont said: “If you have an emergency operation in the back of an ambulance and the surgeon or specialist is on the other side of the city, connected over a 5G network responsive enough to allow real time tactile feedback to the surgeon.
“You then have the opportunity for machine learning. And once we have sufficient machine learning data to allow robotic surgery it will reduce operations times, it will reduce recovery times, it will reduce bed occupation and load on the NHS.
“As with driverless cars, there’s going to be a journey we all have to go on in terms of accepting and trusting these technologies.”