O2, the mobile phone giant, is set to begin testing “smart ambulances” equipped with next generation 5G technology later this month in a deal with Samsung and the NHS.
Britain’s biggest mobile network operator by number of users will pilot the technology on six ambulances from the East of England Ambulance Trust to create new services for emergency vehicles such as real-time video technology and high quality scanners.
The trial at the Millbrook vehicle test centre in Bedfordshire will explore how more patients can be treated with paramedics on the scene by improving connections over the network.
New 5G network technology provides download and upload speeds up to 100 times faster than current 4G networks.
While it is only gradually being rolled out in some parts of the country, and is mostly being used for mobile data and internet connections, telecoms experts hope the technology will be applied to other industries and public sector work.
The ambulances will include technology from Visionable, a start-up backed by O2’s Spanish parent Telefonica that works with 50 NHS trusts to provide video and remote care technology.
O2 said its research had found 5G video conference technology could free up to one million hours per year for the NHS. Improved network capacity could also save cities hundreds of millions of pounds by encouraging patients to wear internet-connected wearables.
The trial will simulate an emergency call-out with paramedics collecting data and communicating remotely with consultants using on-board equipment.
The trial is part of the AutoAir 5G project at the Millbrook Proving Ground, where new 5G technologies are being tested on vehicles, including how network connections and handoffs are managed on the new network at high speeds, as well as other advanced projects.
O2 chief operating officer Derek McManus said: “Healthcare is one of the areas set to benefit most from 5G technology.”
Lynda Sibson, telemedicine manager with East of England NHS, said: “Extending this type of care into smart ambulances is an exciting next step in critical and pre-hospital emergency care.”