Marine-focused testbed launches in Plymouth

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A testbed called Smart Sound Connect has been launched in Plymouth for companies to conduct marine research up to 20 miles offshore.

The testbed is a world-first and uses a private 4G/5G network by Vodafone and Nokia for connectivity across the coastal proving grounds.

Nick Gliddon, Business Director at Vodafone UK, said:

“Smart Sound Connect is using cutting edge innovation to accelerate developments in marine technology through 5G.

The 5G mobile private network will allow companies to test and develop new ideas and use cases beyond the shore’s edge, in a way that was not previously possible.

Plymouth is helping the UK to become a global leader in this field.”

For high-speed offshore communications, Smart Sound uses Steatite’s Wave Relay mesh network.

Alastair Wallace, Group Business Development Manager at Steatite, commented:

“Steatite is delighted to be involved with this ground-breaking project through the supply of world-class radio technology to create a resilient, high bandwidth MESH (Mobile AdHoc Network – MANET) network.

This will support and enhance the overall testbed resulting in a totally distinctive marine communications environment.”

Both connectivity solutions have been “seamlessly integrated to provide an advanced communication capability from the quayside to more than 20 miles offshore”.

The service is managed by Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML) and remote operations centres are based at the lab and in Oceansgate.

Dr James Fishwick, Head of Smart Sound at Plymouth Marine Laboratory, said: 

“The launch of the ocean-focused 5G network represents another huge step forward for Smart Sound as the UK’s leading testbed for advanced marine technologies.

The high-speed network will allow our integrated fleet of autonomous platforms – which include state-of-the-art data buoys and robotic vessels loaded with environmental sensors – to communicate the unprecedented levels of ocean data they are able to capture in real-time.

In turn, this will support further advances in high-tech marine innovation while also informing the world-leading scientific research being carried out here in Plymouth.

This is a fantastic milestone for the city and for UK tech and innovation.”

Among the initial trialists of Smart Sound Connect are:

  • Marine Assured Autonomy Testbed (MAAT): MAAT, led by Lloyds Register and the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), will see a “digital twin” created to test, prove, and assure marine autonomy scenarios using live data. It will form the basis for a marine autonomy certification and classification programme for autonomous vehicles.
  • Requirements for Operational Assurance of Data Standards (ROADS): ROADS is an international collaborative programme to develop specific digital standards and measurements.
  • Bounty Project: Bounty Project uses Bounty’s End – a replica sailing vessel from the Channel 4 series ‘Mutiny’ – to provide live streaming of video and data from voyages around Plymouth Sound to be used publicly and in schools and colleges.

Smart Sound Connect is located within the Plymouth Sound National Marine Park, the first marine park in the UK.

(Image Credit: Smart Sound Plymouth)

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