5G and Beyond

Virgin Media O2 looks to make 5G and broadband child's play

Virgin Media O2 (VMO2) has temporarily transformed a playground in King's Square Gardens in London into a connected play experience for children. Data about their interactions with the equipment will be transmitted over 5G and broadband to alter lights and music.

During the event, which takes place from March 9 to March 10, children can play with equipment such as a climbing apparatus, swings and a slide, with their movements tracked by sensors such as infrared beams and pressure pads.

Depending on how a child interacts with the playground, the tune and pitch of the music will change, with new layers added. Each child's journey will result in a personalized music track, which can be downloaded and taken home.

(Source: Virgin Media O2)
(Source: Virgin Media O2)

VMO2 told Light Reading that equipment is connected to both its 5G network and broadband to ensure connectivity at all times. Each sensor sends a stream of data to a Raspberry Pi's general purpose input/output, serving as a cue to tweak the lights and music. These responses can be pre-programmed and later matched up with the sensor thresholds on site.

Child's play

A Raspberry Pi is a credit-card sized computer that can be plugged into a range of external equipment and was originally created for educational purposes. It has seen some use in the telecom sector as well, though, with Vodafone using it to create a portable private 5G network-in-a-box prototype.

When asked by Light Reading whether the connected playground could have been made possible with 4G, VMO2 replied in the affirmative, noting that 5G provides better latency and upload speeds. The company added that 5G was used since coverage was already available at the location.

(Source: Virgin Media O2)
(Source: Virgin Media O2)

VMO2's connected playground has been brought to life for two days only which, as luck would have it, coincide with a cold snap and rain. Although the company notes the experience was inspired by surveys finding parents are keen to have more playgrounds "modernized with technology," no plans have been made public to recreate the experience elsewhere.

The company says the event serves as a demonstration of what its network can do, similar to past events such as a virtual pizzeria created during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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— Tereza Krásová, Associate Editor, Light Reading

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