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Towards safer RAN deployments with AI/ML and digital twins

Working at height

When deploying, upgrading, and maintaining mobile networks, it is critical to minimize the risk of potential accidents. At Nokia, safety is our number one priority. We constantly strive to keep our processes world-class to secure the safety of our employees, partners and suppliers who are working in the field.

The most critical areas for health and safety in our industry are working at height, road safety and electrical work. Nokia has designed a set of life-saving rules related to these three areas, which establish the minimum standards that everyone has to follow and step in if they notice that the rules are not being followed by others. We have a zero-tolerance policy for not following these rules.

To help us understand the perspective of one of the people working on a deployment site, Nokia Health and Safety Inspector Seane Strickland discussed with Christopher Nell, a Team Leader from our supplier DCN. Read some highlights of the interview in this summary.

The illustration below includes our life-saving rules. For example, we expect everyone to always wear a seat belt in any vehicle, attach themselves and their equipment properly when working at heights and only work on electrical systems when properly trained. 

Picture 1

Read more about our commitments to health and safety in Nokia’s People and Planet sustainability report.

Our commitment to safety goes beyond the ordinary

All serious incidents are devastating because they could have been avoided. Strict adherence to the life-saving rules is non-negotiable for us, and in addition, Nokia is taking many other measures to ensure the health and safety of everyone who works in our deployment projects.

Key elements include the digitalization of our processes and our industry-first approach that leverages artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) for safety checks on-site. Moreover, we conduct reviews of every potential incident, our senior leaders regularly visit deployment sites to verify the safety practices and our teams start their every meeting with a health and safety scorecard.

Let’s take a closer look at how leveraging AI/ML and digital site twins can minimize the risk of incidents.

Driving safety with AI/ML

In our deployment projects, the security checks start long before the engineers set foot at the site. For example, the crew receives a comprehensive report detailing all health and safety related risks and equipment they will be working with. On-site, they will perform site checks and verify that their personal protective equipment adheres to the safety standards with an easy-to-use phone application. The crew simply uploads pictures of the site and of the gear they are wearing so that the AI/ML-powered digital platform can analyze the pictures against our safety standards and alert the user of any deviations.

If the application finds deviations, a correction is required before the person gets a green light to proceed with their work. The identified errors are also a great opportunity to learn and improve our safety checks and instructions, and all the related information will be digitally stored for future purposes.

In practice, we use a very similar principle that the airline industry is using with comprehensive checklists. By enhancing the rigorous principles with the accuracy that AI/ML-assisted analytics provide, we can achieve an unprecedented level of incident prevention and foster a culture of integrity and safety.

Picture 2

Minimizing risks with digital twins

By far the riskiest aspect of a deployment process is the work at height done by our people and partners who are climbing the towers at sites all around the globe. While there are many activities that can be conducted only physically on site, we are also finding innovative ways to reduce the amount of site visits and related risks. After all, the best way of minimizing risks is risk avoidance.

Central to our safety advancements is the concept of a Digital Site Twin. In practice, we create a digital, accurate replica of a physical site, which enables assessing hazards and planning the work with meticulous precision. With the digital site twin, much of the planning and inspections that would normally require a revisit of the site can now be done remotely instead. Through this approach, we have reduced site visits by 25 percent, not only saving time and costs but also eliminating the need to work at height in these instances.

Read how digital site twins can transform 5G network design in Deepak Harie’s blog.

Towards zero incidents with new AI/ML innovations

Going forward, our goal is clear: to eliminate incidents entirely from the deployment process. Embracing artificial intelligence even more than today and minimizing human error helps further enhance the accuracy of our safety processes.

Let me give you an example: One of the solutions we are developing to ensure complete transparency is live hazard recognition using a real-time camera stream. This technology, which will become part of our digital platform, can monitor and analyze the on-site activities using AI/ML and alert the personnel about any recognized dangers as the work progresses.

Together, we are embracing technology to safeguard lives, and with every step forward, we are one step closer to having zero incidents in the workplace. At Nokia, safety comes first, and it is not just a priority – it is a commitment we make every day.

Visit our Deployment services webpage and reach out to us to discuss more.

Samir Kumar

About Samir Kumar

Samir heads the Mobile Networks Services team as well as the Market Services team in North America. He is passionate about creating a digital service portfolio with best-in-class automated tools and processes that enhance the quality and cost efficiency of services that we provide for our customer networks.

You can reach him on LinkedIn.

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