Port of the future

Port of Livorno Case Study

Lowering industry emissions with 5G: The Port of the Future


Shipping accounts for about 90 percent of trade and 2.5 percent of greenhouse gas emissions globally – a figure that could rise to 10 percent by 2050, if the current trajectory continues. According to OECD estimates in 2008, USD 3 trillion worth of port city infrastructure — 5 percent of global GDP — was deemed at risk from the destructive effects of climate change, an amount expected to increase more than elevenfold by 2070. Innovating in this historical sector poses further challenges, with investment decisions often heavily based on cost or direct profit.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has adopted an emissions reduction target of at least 50 percent by 2050 versus 2008, while the European Green Deal is targeting a 90 percent reduction for EU port cities by the same year. However, reaching net-zero emissions by 2050 and the 1.5˚C ambition in the Paris Agreement will require transformative new approaches. Ports have a great responsibility, and strong incentive, to evolve their operations for greater sustainability.


In 2016, Ericsson Research and the Italian Interuniversity Consortium for Telecommunication (CNIT) began cooperation on the “Port of the Future” project at the Port of Livorno, one of the largest Italian seaports – piloting 5G, IoT, virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) and AI as part of port operations.

By creating a digital representation of the port's elements and systems, a model was developed to optimize vessel berthing, improve site management and reduce energy consumption with smarter, more efficient logistic operations.

With the ICT industry estimated as capable of enabling a 15 percent emissions reduction in sectors like mobility and logistics, digital solutions were expected to be a key factor in reducing the carbon footprint of seaports.


The project demonstrates enormous potential benefits: 8 percent lower CO2 emissions per terminal, less fuel consumption, 25 percent improvement in productivity and – importantly for decision-makers – a cost reduction of EUR 2.5 million.

As predicted, it shows the significance of 5G and digitalization for reducing emissions, plus their wider impact on the sustainable development goals (SDGs). In total, the project has produced 65 SDG-linked benefits, including efficiency, safety and integration for smart ports and cities.

Livorno is now a testbed for cutting-edge innovation. For its ongoing success, the project was awarded the Industrial Energy Efficiency Award at Hannover Messe Digital Days 2020.


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