Druid is the magic connecting Europe’s internet of things vision

28 Feb 2017

Rotterdam harbour. Image: ChezMichel/Shutterstock

One of the Irish companies at Mobile World Congress 2017 is casting an internet of things spell across European seas, roads and ports.

While European tech companies and thought leaders struggle to articulate what the internet of things (IoT) really means, Irish software company Druid is already pushing the envelope using 4G technology.

The Bray-based company revealed at Mobile World Congress 2017 how it has deployed a private 4G network in multiple use cases, including to save lives on Sweden’s roads, connect IoT devices in the Dutch North Sea, and automate the Port of Rotterdam.

In Sweden, Druid has deployed its 4G private network application at Sweden’s Active Safety Test Area facility near Gothenburg. The vehicle test facility, AstaZero, is the world’s first full-scale test environment for future road safety. The network provides connectivity for telemetry services, actuators, sensors and traffic control systems at the test track.

AstaZero provides a range of advanced test environments, scenarios and functions associated with automotive transport. It comprises a 5.7 km rural road lane, a city area with four districts of buildings and streets, a road for multi-lane traffic and an area for high-speed tests.

Covering such a large site, combined with the speed at which the vehicles travel and the extreme low latency data service required, is challenging. Due to the critical nature of driverless car applications, this ruled out the use of conventional Wi-Fi and public 4G services.

“In overcoming the challenges associated with this deployment, we learned an enormous amount about how 4G/5G networks will have to perform in driverless vehicles environments, and how network latency translates to response times in high-speed environments,” said Druid CTO Liam Kenny.

“We now look forward to utilising this valuable experience in similar applications during 2017.”

Druid and its Swedish partner ReWiCom deployed a private 4G network based on Druid’s cellular core application and Ericsson 4G radios. The solution was configured to reduce latency to an absolute minimum and to fit with AstaZero’s existing IP infrastructure.

“This project was particularly satisfying in that it will contribute to the further reduction in road traffic accidents in Sweden and around the world when the local networks are exported,” said Rikard Slunga, CEO of ReWiCom Scandinavia.

Sea of IoT dreams

On the Dutch North Sea, Druid’s technology deployed 4G for mission-critical messaging and voice traffic, live video streaming and telemetry from sensory (IoT) devices for one of the world’s largest energy producers.

On oil and gas platforms out to sea, Druid worked with Dutch partner Lumiad to put Atex smartphones to work, accessing whatever data networks are available.

“The delivery of mission-critical alarms over defined quality of service data on our private 4G cores is also central to their decision to use this technology in these environments,” said Kenny.

The exterior 4G coverage on the platform has been achieved with only four high-powered cells. Due to the greatly reduced volume of Wi-Fi and access points required with high Atex-level protection, the 4G coverage makes even more economic sense in these environments.

“This also opens the route for us now to robust IoT networks,” said Wim Bos, managing director of Lumiad.

Harbour hope for future of IoT

And finally, at the Port of Rotterdam, Druid’s technology is also paving the way for the automation of facilities.

Druid has partnered with Koning & Hartman of Amsterdam in successfully deploying a number of private 4G networks at the port.

In the intensely competitive cargo business, shipping companies in particular are quick to embrace new technologies in an effort to gain competitive advantage. Automation is key.

However, a large area filled with parallel lanes of metal containers up to 20 meters in height presents a challenging radio environment.

Deploying a bespoke 4G network ensures that all of the critical machines – including gantry cranes, container tractor units and bridge cranes – have continuous broadband connectivity to the port automation management system, ensuring optimal loading, unloading and stacking of containers.

“We expect to be in a position to announce more port automation wins along with our systems integration partner Koning & Hartman later in 2017,” said Kenny.

Druid’s application transforms what was a dangerous work environment into a totally automated environment that is a ‘worker free’ zone.

“This partnership with Druid will allow us to become the dominant provider of 4G wireless networks for port automation applications in one of the largest and most important ports in the world,” concluded Leo Verstraeten of Koning & Hartman.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years