T-Mobile, Dover AFB Airmen collaborate to innovate

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Marco A. Gomez
  • 436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. -- Representatives from the T-Mobile customer discovery team met with Team Dover Airmen to discuss new and innovative ways to enhance mission effectiveness and accelerate meaningful change on Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, Oct. 20, 2021.

During the event, the T-Mobile team discussed their capabilities and demonstrated new technologies which are ready off-the-shelf or currently in development.

“The T-Mobile visit was an engagement aimed to educate Dover Airmen and identify areas where new technologies can potentially advance Dover AFB’s rapid global mobility mission,” said Maj. James Nichol, 436th Airlift Wing chief of innovation at Bedrock Innovation Lab.

Bedrock is Team Dover’s “innovation foundation,” which houses technological equipment and fosters an innovative environment for Airmen to create solutions to problems they face in their work field.

T-Mobile’s engineers gave Airmen an in-depth look at virtual and augmented reality, as well as high value asset tracking with Bluetooth and radio-frequency identification capabilities; all while being connected to a 5G network.

“When you think of telecommunication capabilities, most people think of 5G,” said Nichol. “The T-Mobile team discussed 5G, but the most interesting portion of their demonstrations were the technologies that are enabled by the 5G spectrum.”

The team explained how these technologies can be leveraged to improve aircraft maintenance operations and increase efficiency in the aerial port and logistics warehouses.

“Initially, we were thinking, ‘Aerial Port of the Future,’ not just the ‘Super Port,’ and it makes sense to reach out and talk with industry partners for [network] infrastructure,” said Senior Master Sgt. Andrew Silkworth, 436th Aerial Port Squadron operations superintendent.

The Airmen of the 436th APS, known as the Super Port, move approximately 50,000 tons of cargo and 10,000 passengers each year.

One product in particular that interested Silkworth was high value asset tracking. This would enable agencies on Dover AFB to track nearly anything throughout their workspace with accurate precision. Silkworth believes the APS, in conjunction with HVA tracking capabilities, may significantly reduce the time it takes to train Airmen and process cargo more efficiently.

“Bluetooth tracking is super interesting because there’s so many uses for it,” said Silkworth. “It’s not just for tracking cargo, we can use it to track our Airmen’s [training] as well. From a training perspective, it will save us hours, if not weeks.”

Silkworth said the capability would also benefit a large organization like the 436th Medical Group by giving them the ability to track medical tools, training and equipment.

“They can tag pieces of equipment that get used in multiple offices and know exactly where to find them,” said Silkworth. “They’ll just scan a QR code and they’ll be able to see where it’s at in their facility, and their software will actually give them directions on how to get there.”

Nichol and Silkworth emphasized how augmented and virtual reality and asset tracking capabilities are not designed for one particular squadron, but every team on base can leverage the emerging technologies that are only limited by the Airmen’s imagination.

“There is no voice too small to spark a huge change,” said Silkworth. “I encourage supervisors to get out there and listen to their Airmen and know where to go to channel that voice. When it comes to innovation on Dover AFB, you [have] a channel right over at Bedrock.”

The partnership has been on-going for more than 10 months, and Dover AFB Airmen continue to look for ways to collaborate with the T-Mobile team to bring their visions to reality.

“As military members, it is important to engage with industry to understand emerging technologies to accelerate change, modernize our infrastructure and dramatically advance our capabilities,” said Nichol. “With strong partnerships, we can preserve a competitive edge over strategic competitors.”