A new 5G innovation hub offering free access to the technology for local companies has opened in Ayrshire.

The S5GConnect Innovation Hub at HALO Kilmarnock will allow businesses to explore how to leverage next generation mobile technology to take advantage of new digital opportunities.

Those include increased productivity, decreased downtimes, enhanced customer experience, unparalleled digital security and reductions in cost and carbon footprint.

The new centre is funded by The Scotland 5G Centre in partnership with Vodafone, and features a private 5G network deployed by the mobile phone giant in just eight weeks.

At the launch, businesses, local authorities and members of the Ayrshire community heard how the centre, through its ‘national suite’ of innovation hubs across Scotland, is working with the private and public sectors to enable step changes in business through the application of 5G.

Attendees also participated in a series of 5G-enabled demonstrations.

The University of Glasgow (one of centre’s founding partners), highlighted how organisations can remotely monitor room capacity and desk occupancy, which, when combined with artificial intelligence, can be used to gather data on peak times of occupancy in order to save energy and reduce their carbon emissions.

Vodafone demonstrated its Mixed Reality solution combining the real and virtual world. Mixed Reality (MR) is the merging of the worlds, allowing the user to see the physical world alongside digital overlays. These could come in the form of instructions, videos or 3D computer generated objects. The technology will be used in training to improve the learning of complex processes and the speed of completing repetitive tasks, as well as for specialists to provide remote support to on-site engineers.

Digital Barriers, a local security company showcased the combined power of 5G and AI in an object classification and facial recognition demonstration. The combined technology has many potential applications in the manufacturing and security sectors.

Following the launch event, the HALO Kilmarnock 5G Innovation hub hosted an interactive open day which allowed local businesses to meet the team and engage with the demonstrations, which were run hourly.

The S5GConnect HALO Kilmarnock hub is situated at the heart of Kilmarnock town centre, supporting the growth and resilience of the Ayrshire economy. The installation of 5G in facilities such as this are critical to ensure the benefits of digital technology are made available to all communities and businesses across the UK.

Sharon Neely, business engagement manager for S5GConnect HALO Kilmarnock, said: “I’m delighted to launch the S5GConnect HALO Kilmarnock Innovation hub with support from our partners at Vodafone and HALO. The Innovation hub provides knowledge, expertise and space for businesses to prototype, design and trial goods and services over a private 5G network.

“We look forward to supporting local companies and local public sector bodies, to help them to unlock the benefits of 5G enabled technology and how it allows them to achieve a step change in their business.”

Kim Moran-Hogg, head of Scotland & Northern Ireland, Vodafone Business, said: “Vodafone are delighted to partner once again with The Scotland 5G Centre for the launch of the 2nd 5G Hub, in HALO Kilmarnock. This testbed will make sure Scottish businesses and public bodies have access to next-generation technologies, powered by state-of-the-art private networks.

“It’s vital that leading-edge technologies are available to drive opportunity for both businesses and citizens and 5G is critical to deliver these opportunities, ensuring the benefits of digital reach every community across the UK. This centre of excellence in Kilmarnock can be a showcase for Scotland and the whole of the UK.”

Dr Marie Macklin C.B.E, founder and executive chair, The HALO Urban Regeneration Company said: “It’s an incredibly exciting time at the HALO and the opening of the S5GConnect HALO Kilmarnock hub highlights our commitment to enhancing both the local and national approach to digital and cyber.

“The HALO is setting the standard for low carbon energy sites across the UK offering a state-of-the-art environment for entrepreneurs specialising in green growth by building a sustainable community powered by renewable energy.”