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  • Lawrence Bailey

Infrastructure vital to City Deal

Like me, you might have been a wee bit sceptical when recently reading about the possibility of convoys of driverless lorries traversing our roads.

Since then however I’ve had the opportunity to take a peek at how the good folk at truck manufacturing giant Scania are moving things forward.

Put simply, these guys are not messing around and the extent to which the technology is already being trialled around the world is impressive.

The core element to the innovation is 5G (fifth generation) wireless broadband technology. The medium provides much faster data transfer speeds, greater coverage and more efficient use of the spectrum bandwidth.

More importantly, 5G works through wi-fi routers – similar to the kind used in homes. No masts are needed as with conventional networking which makes coverage much more robust.

Scania, who reckon the wirelessly driven lorries would be more fuel-efficient, plan to roll out their new vehicle as early as 2020.

It all sounds pretty cool and normally you would expect this part of the world to have to get into a lengthy queue before any opportunities could be exploited locally.

As it happens though, adopting 5G technology is an intrinsic part of the Swansea Bay City Deal which is being pioneered by Sir Terry Matthews and his industry team.

Swansea Council leader Rob Stewart is giving the approach 100% backing and has hinted that the recently proposed metro could draw upon this guided technology.

It’s not just transport that would reap the benefits of 5G either.

Part of the test-bed planning process looks at medical research within Swansea University. Professor Marc Clement of the Institute of Life Science reckons work is well advanced on ‘smart bandages’ whereby 5G can enable real-time monitoring and reporting on patient progress.

While I’ll admit to being a geek when it comes to smart technology, I’m also realistic enough to know that there are challenges.

The whole ethos of the City Deal is that it provides economic opportunities for all communities within the region, not just specialist interests.

Investing in the right infrastructure and making it widely available is therefore a must.

Was it really that bad?

It might surprise you to learn that I don’t think the Conservative party conference was entirely the disaster the media like to portray.

Although the event undoubtedly lacked the polish of previous years, there was some interesting stuff nonetheless, along with a discernible shift towards public spending.

There was also a tacit admission from a few quarters that it might have been lacklustre policy rather than poor packaging that cost them support at the last election.

Of course, all that is lost on press and pundits who have focused almost entirely on Theresa May’s unfortunate performance.

You could argue that once presentation overtakes policy as the primary concern then the slippery slope beckons. Even so neither May or the party should not be easily written off just yet.

We are going to see an outbreak of loyalty, thanks to a consensus that there is currently no alternative - to coin a phrase.

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