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Sherwood Forest on target to become world’s first 5G ‘Connected Forest’

Nottingham Trent University is involved in a project which includes testing a new virtual reality experience at the home of Robin Hood.

Robin Hood
Robin Hood with Council Leader, Cllr Kay Cutts with young visitors from Derbyshire, George, 11 (left) and Huey, 7 trying out a trial version of the VR headsets.

Visitors to the Sherwood Forest Country Park will be able to get a 3D experience of the forest like never before following the go-ahead for a £10m project to test the latest 5G technology at the world-renowned tourist destination.  

Government funding worth £5 million, which will be matched by a consortium led by Nottinghamshire County Council, has been announced as part of a series of government-funded trials to seize the potential of modern technology bySecretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport today (Thursday 20 February).

NTU is part of the consortium, through academic Dr Eiman Kanjo, who specialises in mobile sensing and data science.

The £10m funding will launch the 25-month test bed and trial programme to create the world’s first 5G Connected Forest at the Sherwood Forest Visitor Centre and surrounding area, including Rufford Abbey Country Park, which are managed by the RSPB and Parkwood Outdoors on behalf of the County Council.  

5G is the next generation of connective technology that can power machines, objects, and devices including driving vehicles remotely and creating faultless mobile phone connections in places where this was previously not possible.  

Focusing on how 5G technology can benefit tourism and environment sectors, the pilot, which starts next month, will test new approaches to using virtual and augmented reality experiences for visitors as well as at ways to improve visitor accommodation and transport. 

Visitors will be able to experience the new technology first hand as early as March 2021, during the first year of the programme.

The project will also look at ways that 5G can be used to improve the management of the forest and monitor its health. A 5G Innovation Hub will also be developed to provide facilities for research and for businesses to explore new applications for this cutting-edge technology as well as an opportunity for local people to upgrade skills. 

Highlights of the 5G Connected Forest project will include:

  • Bringing the Robin Hood legend to life at the Sherwood Forest Visitor Centre via an incredible 3D/4D virtual reality experience.
  • Testing of semi-autonomous vehicles to transport visitors, particularly those with mobility issues, with plans for on-board narration to describe the history and background of the site.
  • Technology to teach children about the natural habitat of the forest to inspire the next generation of conservationists.
  • Testing the state-of-the-art digital technologies such as drones and robots to help survey and monitor the health of the forest while minimising the impact on the environment.
  • Trialling more energy-efficient  visitor accommodation  using smart  devices to reduce the environmental impact of a visitor’s stay as well as other improvements to encourage longer stays in the county.

A 5G Innovation Hub to host new research and to provide businesses with access to facilities to trial new ideas and innovations.

An education and skills programme for local people and businesses. 

The consortium is led by Nottinghamshire County Council and includes Nottingham Trent University, Birmingham City University, Netmore IOT Solutions, Gooii, ISPB, Harworth Group, Centre Parcs UK, Stagecoach East Midlands and Parkwood Outdoors. 

Connected Forest is one of eight national 5G programmes announced today and is the only project to be led by a local authority. 

Oliver Dowden, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said: “Connecting the ancient Sherwood Forest with next-generation 5G technology will help bring its story and legendary characters to life through virtual reality, with huge knock-on benefits for Nottinghamshire’s visit economy.

“With £5 million of government funding matched by industry, I’m very excited to see what lessons can be learned about the innovative ways 5G can boost Britain’s brilliant tourism experiences.”

Welcoming the Government funding, Nottinghamshire County Council leader, Councillor Kay Cutts MBE said: "Nottinghamshire is once again at the forefront of latest technology, bringing together some of the best academic minds,  3D creators and experts in 5G.

“This will be the world’s first testing, of 5G, in a forest.  It will bring the stories associated with Robin Hood and our ancient woodland to life in a new way.

“Together with our partners, we will create a virtual reality experience for visitors to Sherwood Forest to attract even more families and visitors to Nottinghamshire from across the UK and overseas, bringing benefits to local businesses and our economy.”

Dr Eiman Kanjo, Associate Professor, Mobile Sensing and Data Science in Nottingham Trent University’s School of Science and Technology, said: "Collaboration with local councils is critical for us to apply our ongoing research on smart places technologies in innovative ways. This project will enable us to support Nottingham County Council and to make a real and positive impact on Sherwood Forest and nearby areas – providing inspiring digital experiences for both visitors and local residents."

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    About Nottingham Trent University

    Nottingham Trent University (NTU) was named University of the Year 2019 in the Guardian University Awards. The award was based on performance and improvement in the Guardian University Guide, retention of students from low-participation areas and attainment of BME students. NTU was also the Times Higher Education University of the Year 2017, and The Times and Sunday Times Modern University of the Year 2018. These awards recognise NTU for its high levels of student satisfaction, its quality of teaching, its engagement with employers, and its overall student experience.

    The university has been rated Gold in the Government’s Teaching Excellence Framework – the highest ranking available.

    It is one of the largest UK universities. With nearly 32,000 students and more than 4,000 staff located across four campuses, the University contributes £900m to the UK economy every year. With an international student population of more than 3,000 from around 100 countries, the University prides itself on its global outlook

    The university is passionate about creating opportunities and its extensive outreach programme is designed to enable NTU to be a vehicle for social mobility. NTU is among the UK’s top five recruiters of students from disadvantaged backgrounds and was awarded University of the Year in the UK Social Mobility Awards 2019. A total of 82% of its graduates go on to graduate entry employment or graduate entry education or training within six months of leaving. Student satisfaction is high: NTU achieved an 87% satisfaction score in the 2019 National Student Survey.

    A total of 82% of its graduates go on to graduate entry employment or graduate entry education or training within six months of leaving. Student satisfaction is high: NTU achieved an 87% satisfaction score in the 2019 National Student Survey.

    NTU is also one of the UK’s most environmentally friendly universities, containing some of the sector’s most inspiring and efficient award-winning buildings.

    NTU is home to world-class research, and won The Queen’s Anniversary Prize in 2015 – the highest national honour for a UK university. It recognised the University’s pioneering projects to improve weapons and explosives detection in luggage; enable safer production of powdered infant formula; and combat food fraud.

Sherwood Forest on target to become world’s first 5G ‘Connected Forest’

Published on 21 February 2020
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