NB-IoT Innovations: Elisa helps improve urban air quality with 5G technology

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The Finnish telecommunications, ICT and digital services company Elisa has signed a cooperation agreement with the University of Helsinki’s MegaSense research programme to develop air-quality monitoring in large cities.

The idea behind MegaSense is to cover a dense urban area with a network of air-quality sensors capable of detecting air pollutants. The large number of sensors helps to generate a real-time snapshot of air quality. Elisa provides the project network technology for developing further innovations.

The MegaSense research programme already uses the NB-IoT network in Helsinki. Elisa launched a 5G network in Helsinki and the next step is to expand Elisa’s 5G network to the MegaSense test area. As well as being at the disposal of the project, the 5G network will also be available for startups in the area to use. In addition to Helsinki, the project will operate in Beijing.

“The new network technology inter-connects sensors, enables efficient data collection and supports smarter sensor management. We are developing a new kind of air quality sensor network, one that automatically detects the operating environment of each sensor and minimises measurement error. Artificial intelligence enables significant improvements in the functionality of low-cost sensors,” says Professor Sasu Tarkoma, Head of the Department of Computer Science at the University of Helsinki.

The MegaSense programme is an integral part of the UrbanSense project, which brings together 5G test platforms and conducts research into network technologies and their use. The aim of the project is to create an open 5G innovation platform and a good framework for developing network and service operations.

5G allows IoT to grow

5G technology makes it possible to simultaneously connect a much larger number of terminal devices to the same mobile base station than is possible with the existing mobile network. This enables large-scale use of sensors in an urban area.

“IoT services are one of the first ways in which the benefits of 5G technology are being put in concrete use, and the effort to improve air quality is a good example of this. Many Finnish companies have already come a long way in making use of IoT, and so the new opportunities that 5G presents are certainly welcome,” says Petteri Svensson, business director of subscriptions at Elisa’s corporate customer unit.

According to Svensson, the practical application of 5G by businesses will begin to be seen very quickly.

“Companies are not slow to adopt a new technology once it becomes available. With MegaSense, we can also make 5G technology available quickly to startups developing applications that use it”.