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Glasgow Subway Used as Testbed for ‘Pioneering’ 5G Project

David Paul

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5G project
University of Strathclyde researchers used track-to-train tech to connect passengers travelling on the city centre underground.

A new project has explored the use of ‘5G experiences’ for train commuters to connect passengers on an underground train.

The Glasgow Subway was the testbed for the ‘pioneering’ new 5G RailNext study, run by researchers at the University of Strathclyde and a consortium led by Cisco, alongside Strathclyde Partnership for Transport, Glasgow City Council, Ampletime and Sublime.

Researchers set up a private 5G connection to connect passengers using a ‘pop up’ network with ‘next generation’ technology to provide track-to-train connectivity between Buchanan Street and St Enoch stations.

The project was researching the potential for delivery of personalised advertising using augmented reality (AR) mobile applications enabled by 5G connectivity.

Additionally, the project examined the willingness of passengers to use wearable mobile AR through devices such as headsets. This was funded by the Department for Digital, Media, Culture and Sport (DCMS).

Dr David Crawford, 5G Engineering Director from the University of Strathclyde, said: “5G RailNext has shown that 5G mobile technology is well-suited to providing track-to-train connectivity inside tunnels for underground railway systems.

“The deployed infrastructure created a unique test environment, and by testing 5G in these technically challenging contexts, we have a much clearer idea of what is feasible and how consumers can be reached with personalised and engaging information and entertainment content, delivered through new forms of interactive media.”


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The project has run in partnership with similar research carried out in the metro system of the South Korean city of Seoul. That collaboration sought to show the potential of 5G in challenging environments.

A custom 5G connection allowed the train carriage to connect to the trackside network, while an on-train Wi-Fi network was used to connect users. Two 5G ‘infotainment service applications’ streamed AR adverts through a scanned QR code, while an AR application enabled passengers to interact with virtual objects overlaid on top of real-world objects.

Strathclyde Uni Researchers say that their private train network “successfully demonstrated” the live operation and potential of infotainment in an underground rail environment.

Peter Shearman, Cisco’s Head of innovation for UK & Ireland, commented: “The rail and metro environments present a market with limited penetration of advertising, marketing, and content services to date, but they have a high-volume, repeat-visit customer base, and our user trials have demonstrated that having the ability to explore and ‘try’ products could be appealing to passengers travelling on trains.

“Interactive media and AR-based advertising could help to improve passenger experience, enable new marketing channels, and create new revenue streams for advertisers, media owners, and operators.”

David Paul

Staff Writer, DIGIT

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