Orange is participating in an EU-funded Belgian drones-and-sensors project that it and partners iMinds and Rombit claim will "significantly optimise" the operations of Antwerp and its port.
The three-year project will see drones sit ready to fly into action when there is a fire or explosion, in order to pass crucial data to emergency services before they arrive. They will also measure air quality, detect environmental legislation infringements, and keep a robotic eye out for obstacles in the water.
Fixed water sensors, connected to the same network, will test water quality as part of the project.
Rombit is an Internet-of-Things (IoT) engineering firm that is based in Antwerp, while iMinds is the regional digital research and entrepreneurship hub for Flanders.
iMinds is hoping the project will help make Antwerp a testbed for the "City of Things". Orange, meanwhile, gets to use its 4G network for exciting new IoT applications that involve sensor data.
All this is part of a wider scheme bearing the name Adoptive Gateways for Diverse Multiple Environments (AGILE). The AGILE scheme aims to develop an open-source, modular platform for IoT devices, giving developers an easy way to prototype new ideas and collaborate with one another.
The scheme won €7 million funding from the European Commission's Horizon 2020 research and innovation program.
According to Tom Sorgeloos, Orange Belgium's major account manager for machine to machine (M2M), the Antwerp project will act as a testbed for the AGILE gateway, and for sensors (provided by Libelium) and the drones (provided by Sky-Watch).
"Through the gateway, the data has to go somewhere. We are providing the connectivity to our 4G platform," Sorgeloos said. "We want to investigate if the 4G network that exists at this point is capable of transmitting sensor and image data in real time."
Sorgeloos also noted that the drones could be used to test the air for poisonous gases in the case of a calamity, in order to pre-warn emergency services. The Antwerp port area is host to a nuclear plant and multiple chemical plants.
- see the Orange release
Tracking IoT disruptors from Telefónica to Zipcar: providers large and small line up for the challenge
Report: Smart city projects could 'squander' billions due to lack of IoT standardisation
Machina Research: 'Missing' IoT revenue boosts forecasts to $4T by 2025
Report: No 'one-type-fits-all' connectivity for IoT applications
Ericsson unveils IoT Accelerator to simplify deployment and monetisation by companies