Mercabarna commits to 5G technology in order to prevent accidents at work with industrial vehicles

03 / 12 / 2020
  • The ‘5G Anti Collision’ pilot trial took place today at Mercabarna. This is a warning system based on 5G and other advanced digital technologies designed to improve road safety within the complex
  • On account of its small city-like nature, the Mercabarna food complex has been turned into a test bench for 5G in Catalonia
  • With this system, information can be shared among different vehicles in thousandths of a second
  • The project, which is part of the 5G Barcelona initiative and has the backing of Mercabarna, brings together leading technological partners in their respective fields, such as Orange, Mobile World Capital Barcelona, the i2CAT Foundation and CTTC, and has the support of the Ministry for Digital Policy of the Regional Government of Catalonia

Today, Mercabarna has successfully completed a pilot trial for a warning system that in the future will help to improve road safety. In this test, the use of 5G networks has brought together different advanced communication and localisation technologies both to monitor two vehicles -in this case a forklift truck and a bicycle- on collision course with each other, and also to issue a warning signal to prevent the crash.

5G technology offers the project extremely low latency guarantees (a very short delay between the issue and receipt of information), universal network availability (broad indoor and outdoor coverage) and scalability (increased capacity) with a view to providing service to a lot of devices at the same time. The pilot trial has also shown that it is feasible to integrate hybrid positioning solutions that increase the accuracy and robustness of global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) in 5G services, when used in combination with communication and UWB positioning systems, inertial navigation systems (INS), and communication between vehicles and infrastructure (V2X).

The project was presented this morning by Jordi Puigneró, Minister for Digital Policy and Public Administration of the Regional Government of Catalonia; Montserrat Ballarín, President of Mercabarna and Councillor for Trade, Markets, Consumption, Internal Regime and Treasury of Barcelona City Hall; Eduard Martín, 5G Director of Mobile World Capital Barcelona and CEO of 5G Barcelona; and Víctor Vera, Territorial Director of Catalonia for Large Accounts at Orange. The event was also attended by representatives of the i2CAT Foundation and CTTC, which were in charge of applied technologies at the pilot trial.

At the event, Jordi Puigneró, Minister for Digital Policy, stated that “what we are presenting today is a pilot trial that shows us what impact 5G technology will have on different areas of our society while at the same time helping to boost a new value-added technology industry”. He also added that “and it goes even further,  as it represents the starting point for an alliance between Mercabarna and the Ministry for Digital Policy to establish synergies in promoting advanced digital technologies and speeding up the digital transformation of Mercabarna, a strategic infrastructure for the Catalan economy and society”.

Montserrat Ballarín, President of Mercabarna, added that “because of its nature, Mercabarna is an exceptional test bench for testing the applicability of 5G technology in the context of a business hub. Our goal is therefore to continue working with the institutions and organizations that need us to this end, as it offers us huge potential to make headway in the construction of a more innovative, more efficient and more competitive Mercabarna”.

Eduard Martín, 5G Director of Mobile World Capital Barcelona and CEO of 5G Barcelona, likewise stated that “this pilot trial shows the enormous capacity offered by the 5G network in combination with V2X and V2V in the field of logistics. Applying these technologies in industrial vehicles will increase occupational safety, help to improve and automate processes and enhance the efficiency of these operations”.

Lastly, Víctor Vera, Territorial Director of Catalonia for Large Accounts at Orange, said that “close collaboration with Orange today is enabling Mercabarna to take its business a step forward on the path to digital transformation, through the use of state-of-the-art 5G networks, which here are addressed to safety at work in its operations.

Mercabarna has always been openly committed to the use of applied technology, through practical use cases focused both on day-to-day and employee needs and on the global sustainability agenda. By way of an example, new projects already underway will help to generate a more efficient management of the 14,000 vehicles plus moving around its facilities and will also provide other solutions that streamline its facilities’ cleaning and waste management processes.

Mercabarna is once again pioneering in the implementation of cutting-edge telecommunications, in this case using 5G technology, which has been available throughout its premises since the summer of 2019. The tests performed today at Mercabarna will be followed by others related to training, logistics and safety, because this food-trading estate has 5G throughout the complex and is therefore ideal for simulating projects involving use of this technology in industrial environments or small cities.

Description of the pilot trial

Both the forklift truck and the bicycle were equipped with an On-board Unit device (OBU) connected to the 5G network which allows for the constant issue and receipt of messages. They were also equipped with another device (HW) necessary for geolocating vehicles accurately, by merging positioning data provided via satellite, autonomous inertial navigation systems that measure the vehicle’s acceleration and rotation and distance measurements based on radio technology, which provides additional accuracy and reliability in challenging and complex environments.

When the system detects a hazard based on the cyclist’s course, a signal is emitted in order to activate a warning horn and to notify one of the two vehicles of the potential risk of collision.

Complexity of the Mercabarna complex

An average of 14,000 vehicles enter Mercabarna every day and travel through its 90 ha of land (equivalent to 90 football pitches).  Most of these are industrial vehicles (trailers, trucks and vans). There are also a further 1,400 forklift trucks, which travel around non-stop carrying fresh produce from one place to another, plus a hundred or so bicycles, used by some professional buyers to move through wholesale markets quickly because on busy market days traffic is usually dense.