Rogers, UBC renew 5G research partnership with new focus on wildfire management

Rogers and UBC have renewed their 5G research partnership until 2025.

The announcement comes after two years of coverage on the Vancouver and Okanagan campuses. In 2018, the partnership promised a fruitful collaboration for researchers at Rogers and UBC. Additionally, it promised “made-in-Canada” solutions to everyday problems and investments in new technologies.

Although the goals have not changed, most notable this time was a newfound focus — made both by UBC and Rogers — on combating threats to the environment.

“Rogers and [UBC] … challenge researchers at UBC’s Vancouver and Okanagan campuses and Rogers to develop, explore and test new made-in-Canada 5G capabilities in areas such as wildfire management, human teleoperations and emergency response,” Rogers wrote in a November 16 press release.

President Santa Ono also wrote in the press release that Rogers and UBC are “investigating how 5G technology can help to shape and rebuild our world in ways that can have far-reaching positive impacts at UBC and beyond.”

In 2018, the original $4.8 million partnership fostered between Rogers and UBC aimed to improve student engagement with their technology. This was done through encouraging 5G development across different research areas.

“The initial focus areas of the renewed partnership are particularly relevant to BC,” said Gail Murphy, UBC’s vice-president of research and communication. “Looking at how 5G can contribute to wildfire management, emergency response and remote and rural health delivery provides new ways for UBC research to help generate significant social and economic impacts for our province and beyond.”

Dr. Mathieu Bourbonnais, an assistant professor in the department of earth, environmental and geographic sciences at UBC’s Okanagan campus, said there are ways to use 5G to better understand the impact of the climate crisis, especially in wildfire response.

“So specifically the project we’re going to be working on is how can we use 5G combined with environmental sensors … to understand in real time how the fire conditions or the fuel conditions are changing through the day and over seasons,” Bourbonnais said.

When asked about the confidence he has in Rogers addressing the wildfire threat in the coming years, he admitted that, while welcome news, it will take more than one company to ease environmental hazards.

“The thing we face with wildfires is there is not going to be any one solution that solves the whole issue,” Bourbonnais said. “But the better information we have the better we can collaborate amongst governments, local communities and telecommunications providers.”