Several projects in which the UPC participates in the area of biotechnology (the ABLE exoskeleton) and 5G technology, as well as University spin-offs, were present at the 14th edition of the Mobile World Congress and the associated event 4YFN, held in Barcelona on 25–28 February.
The ABLE (Assistive Biorobotic Low-Cost Exoskeleton) exoskeleton was designed by the Biomechanical Engineering Lab (BIOMEC), which is part of the Research Centre for Biomedical Engineering (CREB UPC) and developed the spin-off ABLE Human Motion. ABLE was presented at the 4YFN event. ABLE is the first light, easy-to-use, affordable exoskeleton for people with spinal injuries that restores the capacity to walk in a natural, intuitive way.
The exoskeleton only uses essential mechanisms and sensors to facilitate functional recovery of walking in patients with lower spinal injuries. ABLE has a system for activating the knee that acts as an artificial muscle, and a sensor situated in the area of the tibia that detects the user’s intention to walk. The device was designed by BIOMEC, a research group coordinated by the researcher Josep Maria Font.
In addition, at the Mobile World Congress, held at the Fira de Barcelona on Gran Via (Av. Joan Carles I, 64, Hospitalet), two projects were presented relating to the use of 5G technology and designed by the 5G Barcelona consortium, which is an initiative promoted by the Government of Catalonia, Barcelona City Council, Mobile World Capital Barcelona, the i2CAT Foundation, the UPC, the Catalan Telecommunications Technology Centre (CTTC) and Atos. The aim of the consortium is to make Barcelona a leading digital hub in Europe in this technology.
The first project is a connected car with 5G-assisted driving developed by SEAT, Telefónica, Ficosa, ETRA, Qualcomm and 5G Barcelona. Three capacities were tested in a pilot project in the streets of Hospitalet de Llobregat. One is the capacity to detect a pedestrian on a zebra crossing: the traffic light uses a thermal camera to detect a pedestrian and, via edge computing, notifies vehicles. Another test was to detect a cyclist who is turning right: the bicycle has connectivity and a highly accurate location system. It communicates with the cars to inform them of its location and to send an alert in the case of a potential collision. Finally, detection of a car stopped on the road with low visibility was tested:the stopped car activates emergency lights and automatically notifies approaching vehicles.
The second project, called Telestration (created by AIS CHannel), is the demonstration of a surgical intervention transmitted in real time on 27 March at the MWC venue, from where other surgeons guide and advise the doctors in the operating theatre. It was the first streamed operation that enabled remote connection of a team of surgeons in different places. The aim of the initiative is to connect surgeons worldwide who can guide operations even if they are not physically present in the operating theatre.
The pilot project was carried out at the Hospital Clínic de Barcelona, an institution that has a high-tech surgical unit and is equipped with ‘Optimus’, a hospital operating theatre classified as the most advanced in the world. The versatility of the solution means that it could be set up in any hospital. The low latency of 5G communications means that the operation can be transmitted in real time with no delays. Vodafone Spain supplies the 5G network technology for this pilot project.
Eleven business initiatives created by UPC alumni and researchers were presented at the Mobile World Congress and at 4YFN; one of the most important start-up events in the world that brings together the youngest companies with most prospects in the technology sector.
The following companies were presented at the MWC:
The companies at 4YFN were:
In addition, the company Goin was entrusted with giving the 4YFN Awards Barcelona 2019. This start-up, created by former UPC students, created an application to automate its users’ savings and help them to make a yield.
These spin-offs and start-ups have been created with the support of the Innovation Management Service and the Emprèn UPC programme, continuing with the work undertaken initially by the UPC Innova Programme, a pioneering initiative in Catalonia and Spain focused on promoting a culture of innovation and the entrepreneurial spirit of the university community. In over 20 years of entrepreneurial activity at the UPC, over 300 companies have been created and 4,500 jobs, over 500 patents have been applied for, and more than 200 licensed technologies have been derived from research.