5G SENSOR@SEA - 5G Smart Edge Node and Smart Objects enabling Reliable Services Extended All over the seas

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The objective of 5G SENSOR@SEA is to design, deploy and evaluate the “5GT System” solution (5G Global Tracking System), constituted by an NB-IoT framework on top of a hybrid cellular-satellite network, providing real-time information coming from cargo-containers to an OneM2M IoT platform. This continuous monitoring of cargo containers is performed across seas in a port-to-port service scenario, even in deep-sea travel.

The 5GT System also includes part of network functions (especially related to satellite network) deployed in the cloud as virtualized functionalities, thereby fostering higher cost efficiency for network deployments. Cloud virtualization technology and Software Defined Networking capabilities ensure achieving a seamless integration of the satellite components in the upcoming 5G network systems.

Moreover, the satellite component of the 5GT System includes an on-board satellite transmitter using a protocol which includes a packet optimization module.

A verification campaign will be performed in laboratory to characterize the performance of the 5GT System. 
Finally, a field trial will be conducted involving a Messina Line cargo ship hosting the maritime domain (i.e., containers monitored during sailing journeys) and the port-terminal of Messina Line in Genoa, hosting the terrestrial domain (i.e., containers monitored when they are stored on the port yards).

  • To provide connectivity to the cargo containers in a highly critical environment such as cargo ships and port terminals. For this reason, each container is equipped with a Container Tracking Device (CTD), which functionalities are described below; 

  • To achieve seamless integration between satellite components and 5G network by means of cloud virtualization technologies and SDN capabilities;

  • To optimize the satellite communication protocols to cope with the IoT scenario, by allowing the reduction of overhead transmitted towards the satellite.


Currently, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technologies are widely used for monitoring cargo flow in the logistics chain. In the RFID solution, a “tag” attached to a container is interrogated by a reader. Tracking only takes place during certain transport phases, i.e. every time an operator can approach the container with a reader or when the container passes through gates equipped for reading RFID. Thus, it is not a continuous and real-time tracking service like the one provided by the 5GT System. 

On the other hand, some cargo shipping companies are developing proprietary and "siloed" real-time tracking systems, closed to new entrants and not scalable to future expansions. The siloed technologies are those where the solution is provided E2E starting from the devices up to the application servers. If siloed solutions are used, a technological lock-in occurs, since when an expansion is needed, the customer is forced to consider the same provider. On the contrary, the architecture of the 5GT System is organized into different layers separated by open and exposed APIs. The Telco network and OneM2M IoT platform used are respectively based on 3GPP and OneM2M standards. Thus, a horizontal open and standard layer is available for future evolutions.

  • In the 5GT System, the CTDs attach the cellular network through NB-IoT technology, while existing competitor systems often employ GSM. NB-IoT was designed to have an extra coverage range of 20 dB compared to GSM/GPRS modules. Thus, NB-IoT modules guarantee reliable communication in critical scenarios like cargo ships, where GSM modules more easily detach the cellular network. Moreover, the mesh network capabilities of the CTDs guarantee the continuous monitoring of the containers whenever direct NB-IoT connection is not available;    

  • The 5GT System implements the “5G-specialized Satellite Platform”, employing satellite communication protocols optimized to cope with the IoT scenario;

  • The 5GT System includes the use of Ku-band frequencies to transmit and receive data even in mobility scenarios. This is considered attractive for the stakeholders (shipping lines) because it is an effective way to reduce the satellite bandwidth cost (Ku-band is traditionally less expensive than L-band that is usually used for this type of application) and is also considered attractive for satellite operators that are not the owner of L-band licenses and that are at the current time excluded from IoT business;

  • The adoption of SDN paradigms allows more flexible integration of satellite components in the 5G networks.

System Architecture

The 5GT System architecture and the role of each component are reported as follows:

  • CTD – Through specific sensors, it detects data regarding the container status. Then, if it can attach the base station (good radio coverage), it sends the data to the onboard cellular network (Maritime domain) or the terrestrial one (Terrestrial domain) via NB-IoT interface. Otherwise, data are forwarded to a CTD device through a mesh network, enabled by a Bluetooth 5.0 interface. This second device tries to transmit the received data via NB-IoT. In case of failure it forwards again the data to its neighbour CTD (via mesh network) and so on;

  • Maritime smart edge node – The Smart cell is an NB-IoT cellular network installed onto the vessel onboard. The Smart mIoT gateway provides a secure and reliable multi-backhauling connectivity for ship-shore NB-IoT data;

  • 5G-specialized Satellite Platform – This is constituted by the 5G-specialized Satellite Terminal (5ST), a transceiver guaranteeing connectivity in the open sea via a Ku-band satellite link. On the ground side, the 5G-specialized Satellite Gateway (5SG) performs demodulation and Layer-2 functionalities;

  • IoT monitoring platform – It comprises the OneM2M platform and an application framework, namely the “Maritime mIoT Service Framework”.


The Work Breakdown Structure of 5G SENSOR@SEA includes the following Work Packages:

  • WP1 – “Requirements, specification and architecture”;

  • WP2 – “Development, integration and verification”;

  • WP3 – “Validation”;

  • WP4 – “Coordination”.

Milestones are scheduled in correspondence of the following review meetings:

  • Preliminary Design Review (PDR), May 2021;

  • Critical Design Review (CDR), October 2021;

  • Deployment and Verification Review (DVR), September 2022;

  • Final Review (FR), January 2023.

Current status

At present, the project team has passed the second milestone, i.e. the one corresponding to the CDR. The following main objectives were achieved:

  • 5GT System and sub-systems design;

  • Design of software and hardware modules of each sub-system;

  • Requirements description;

  • Completion of the verification test planning.

Currently, the project team is focused on the deployment of each 5GT System component. The next main steps are:

  • Executing the E2E and sub-systems Verification test-cases (i.e. lab TCs);

  • Completing the Validation test planning, which is related to the field-trial test cases;

  • Performing the field trial.