Greater Manchester Combined Authority outlines plans for a digital roads network

The Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) has outlined plans for a digital roads network supported by 5G.

This follows the provision of £3 million to the city-region under a Department for Science, Innovation and Technology scheme to support regional initiatives in 5G innovation.

The authority said the digital roads network will be developed with the aim of reducing congestion and carbon emissions, prioritising traffic such as public transport.

The funding will support the deployment of relevant technologies on the existing 5G network, including those on legacy assets for connectivity, internet of things sensors and cloud based systems.

It will build on the deployment of the local 5G Create project, under which Transport for Greater Manchester tested the use of AI enabled computer vision cameras to identify different modes and movements around the road network.

The GMCA said this has made it possible to prioritise different transport modes, such as cycling and buses, the use of which will be scaled up under the digital roads programme. This will provide lessons in the development of an alternative to building more roads, and is aimed at helping the city-region towards its target of reaching net zero by 2038.

“The 5G foundation connectivity will reduce the barriers for incorporating and deploying new innovative IoT sensors and detector to give us a better insight on factors that impact the operation of our network,” she added. “As part of the programme, we will further explore the interaction between on-street infrastructure and the increase growth in connected vehicles, the opportunities as well as the risk (cyber) this may present for public sector,” said a spokesperson.

There is no firm timeline to the project, but there is an aspiration for a minimum of a year for testing and data collection to provide a strong evidence base.

The smart grid energy project will involve the connection of hundreds of existing air source heat pumps across Greater Manchester’s social housing settings using 5G technology, accelerating the creation of grids. These will use information connectivity and technology to efficiently manage the local generation, distribution and use of electricity, with the aim of making it more adaptable, reducing costs and supporting Greater Manchester’s Local Area Energy Plan.

It will include equipping previously dumb assets with technology to capture real time data to support services and future energy modelling.

Cllr Nick Peel, Greater Manchester lead for digital, said: “5G can transform our public services and grow the economy, making our workplaces more productive and creating better paid jobs. Evidence shows the most significant economic benefits from 5G will come from widespread adoption of advanced 5G by industrial sectors, including manufacturing and logistics and by public services.

“To deliver this we will utilise existing infrastructure such as Greater Manchester’s Local Full Fibre Network and industry expertise, academia and the regions’ cyber security sector, ensuring that everyone in our city-region, whatever their age, location or situation, can safely access and benefit from the opportunities digital brings.”

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