Catalonian government unveils plan for 5G-enabled ambulances

The Catalonian government unveiled plans for a fleet of 5G-enabled ambulances during MWC 2019.

By Max Burkhalter
March 1, 2019
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The Catalonian government has partnered with Juniper and Vodafone to create the next generation of emergency response vehicles, which will be able to harness the full networking power and end-to-end connectivity of 5G communications. Catalonia debuted its ambulance prototype during Mobile World Congress 2019, held in Barcelona during the last few weeks of February. The multi-vendor presentation, headed by the Ministry for Digital Policy and Public Administration, generated a good deal of industry buzz, as it represented a true union

Once fully deployed, each ambulance will be outfitted with Juniper's SD-WAN mobile nodes to provide first responders with simultaneous and seamless remote connectivity, according to an article from ZDNet. The nodes will be hooked up to a powerful satellite antenna mounted to the roof of each vehicle, reducing the likelihood of prolonged network outages while the ambulance is traveling between destinations. This will allow medical professionals to work with ambulance crews remotely, potentially saving the lives of thousands of patients suffering from complex injuries or illnesses.

How 5G accommodates cutting-edge medical equipment
One major benefit of 5G networking is that it provides lower latency for sending and receiving data, enabling real-time communications between ambulances and local hospitals. The rapid transmission of data is crucial to Catalonia's smart vehicle project, as most of the onboard equipment will require uninterrupted service to perform effectively. For example, government officials plan to equip each ambulance with specialized HD video streaming hardware to put first responders in direct contact with doctors while a patient is being transported to a medical facility. This will allow ambulance crews to administer the exact care each patient needs under the direct supervision of a certified medical professional. The reduced latency can also support a host of internet of things functions, such as:

  • Providing remote support for first responders
  • Tracking emergency response times
  • Communicating with traffic signals to clear an ambulance's route
  • Mapping traffic congestion to avoid transportation delays
  • Transmitting patient vitals to hospital databases
  • Diagnosing vehicle issues as they occur
  • Facilitating web dashboards to display fleet distributions

These features hold the potential to completely transform emergency response through enhanced fleet monitoring and data analytics. By moving away from manual recordkeeping, medical professionals will be able to track a patient's condition from the moment they enter an ambulance, reducing incidents of human error and generating actionable insights for improving response procedures. It's also possible that 5G connectivity may lead to new strategies for treating patients in the field, as doctor's will be able to quickly review data sets for comparable injuries and illnesses collected over a long period of time.

IoT sensors will play an important role in the push toward smart ambulances - by recording a host of disparate data points, including heart rate, body temperature, blood pressure, and ECG, medical professionals will be able to aggregate a massive amount of patient data for future study. A 2019 report from Research and Markets estimated that the global IoT sensor market will reach $22.48 billion by 2023, growing at a CAGR of 33.6 percent over the next four years. In part, this market expansion will be driven by advances in healthcare technologies and the demand for reliable infrastructure for the processing of machine-generated data.

Doctor looking over brain scans displayed on a computer screen.5G-enabled ambulances rely on powerful on-premises networking tools to ensure patient data is received without disruption or delay.

Preparing hospital infrastructure for 5G connectivity
While much of the hype surrounding Catalonian's eHealth initiatives has focused on its mobile systems, medical facilities must also undergo a thorough upgrade process to accommodate the deluge of data that a fleet of smart ambulances will generate. To ensure consistent performance, hospitals will need to be equipped with reliable networking equipment that can facilitate uninterrupted vehicle-to-infrastructure communications.

"[D]elivering new services at huge scale both in terms of capacity and connectivity – to humans and to 'things' – will take a massive toll on today's networks," commented Rami Rahim, CEO of Juniper Network, in a press release just before MWC 2019. "To prepare for this 5G-led explosion of bandwidth and devices, providers will need to transform their infrastructure, operations and service delivery to capitalize on the opportunities. For this, service providers require a secure, automated and cloud-native architecture capable of delivering diverse services in a cost-effective and agile way."

Reliable network infrastructure starts and ends with robust and scalable on-premises hardware, which may require a good deal of space to accommodate. While remote storage facilities can help reduce technology costs, sensitive patient information requires comprehensive security protocols that some server farms may not offer. Additionally, the added distance could complicate the transmission of important data, preventing medical professionals from responding to changes in a patient's condition.

Perle offers high-performance networking tools that can keep doctors connected with emergency response personnel when it matters most, as our reliable Device Servers and Ethernet Switches can be fully integrated into 5G environments.Read some of our customer stories to find out how we've helped other healthcare organizations take full advantage of their IoT systems.


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