City of London smart city initiative

The energy business consists of several multi-trillion dollar ecosystems that, depending on where you look or you ask, are slowly evolving, being disrupted, or somewhere in between.

The City of London Corporation’s next step into Smart City IoT, a 12,000-unit smart street lighting deployment, was launched to the media in November 2019 at the Corporation’s head offices at the Guildhall.

The City of London Corporation provides local authority services to those located in the City of London, commonly known as the Square Mile, the financial district and historic centre of London. The residential population itself of approximately 8,000 people is surprisingly small but, with more than half a million people commuting into the City every day for work and millions of tourists visiting every year, it is a hive of activity.

This article was originally published in Smart Energy International Issue 2-2020. Read the full digimag here or subscribe to receive a print copy here.

The City of London is dedicated to creating a vibrant and thriving city. The City’s mission is to provide an outstanding environment with lighting forming a key component of this.

The integration of new architectural projects with the area’s medieval street pattern has proved challenging. The environment, with its narrow streets, tall buildings, and the construction materials of some of these buildings, meant that the City really struggled to find a system that provided the communications coverage needed.

The existing lighting stock, much of it over 30 years old, was reaching the end of its useful life. Therefore, the City decided to replace the old units and update the communications technology while doing so.

Giles Radford, Highway Manager, Highways Division Department of the Built Environment, City of London, says: “Here in the City of London we have many challenges primarily due to ageing stock. We had an old system called ‘Cyclone’, which was an electrical pulse used to switch the lights on and off, but that system is unsupported. We have a lot of stock that is 30+ years of age that needed renewing. We also have within the square mile a historical core – but obviously the dynamic of the city is changing with many high-rise buildings coming to fruition which is creating a canyon effect as well.”

“We noticed that star-node systems really struggle within our built environment so we needed something a bit different in the square mile. We also wanted to future-proof what we were doing and we wanted to tie it in with our streetlighting upgrade as well so we could build a system that was good for the next 30-35 years.”

The project

Undertaken in conjunction with Itron, Urban Control and Wi-Sun, the two-year project is expected to be completed later in 2020. The programme uses field area network (FAN) technology with self-forming and self-healing functionality, as well as Urban Control’s software to comply with the City’s stringent requirements.

The deployment uses multiple gateways to ensure connectivity with additional redundancy. Itron played an instrumental role by supplying the communications equipment for the project, delivering in-field performance based on open standards communications technology.

The project uses LED luminaries and a Central Management System (CMS), allowing the City to use tunable settings to best show its historic assets.

Continues Radford: “One of the biggest benefits we saw with the reinforced mesh network is that it is self-healing so we didn’t have to worry as much about the maintenance and functionality of it all. We also knew that it didn’t have to have line of sight which is really important for us because the space in the streets is really limited. We only have certain locations where we could put certain operations so we needed something that could hop around, could talk in different locations, different wavelengths, different areas of the city.

“We felt that the reinforced mesh gave us the opportunity to do that, plus we wanted something that gave us scalability moving forward. In terms of new smart city applications, we wanted something where the location didn’t restrict the possibility of what we could do.

“We realised that the mesh network actually gave us the resilience that we needed. It gave us a system that also provided the digital platform that we could expand on so it didn’t have to be just lighting; we could go into smart city technologies. If we are going to invest in that infrastructure it makes sense to do it once – properly. An overall system that kind of looked after itself really was what we were after and that’s certainly
what it gives us.”

New street lighting helps reduce maintenance costs and energy consumption as well as offering increased flexibility for aesthetic lighting and improved public safety. As a result, the City now also has the capability to enable new programmes such as environmental monitoring.

“We are currently looking at 12,000 lights in the square mile. Our street light upgrade has allowed us to work through that with our business partners and we introduced 15 gateways in our area. When we looked at this originally we only needed two gateways, but we decided that we wanted some resilience, we wanted to future proof this and so we scaled up and we aligned it with our ‘Cyclone’ areas because we’re basically phasing that process out.

“We’ve had a change in our maintenance regime, and it has brought down the costs of night scouting. We get real-time default reporting, so every morning we can log in and we can see where the faultsare on our network. We don’t have to go looking for them, they come to us; it’s all click-of-the-button technology. We have access to real-time energy reporting as well which again used to be a very tedious process. Where there were unmetered supplies, we now have metered supplies – but the main driver for us is that this project actually gives us a platform where we can play with our lighting levels. We can tune them up and turn them down in line with our streetlighting strategy.”

Future developments

The City of London is in the early stages of its Smart City development but it’s evident that the open standards support of the technology and the flexibility to integrate new, third party devices were a key factor in its final decision. Traffic and parking monitoring, occupancy sensing and environmental monitoring are all part of the Corporation’s long-term plan.

The additional capacity of the network, says Radford, means that because the streetlights use about 10% of the available capacity the Corporation has about 85-90% to play with for future technology and to deliver core functions for the City of London.

“We’re in the modern era – it’s all about data. But what we wanted to do is create the infrastructure which allows us to pick the data we want. Rather than big data coming to us and trying to filter out what we need, we wanted to control it to take it forward.

“For example, a hot topic at the moment would be air quality. We can install air quality sensors out on the street to measure air quality, but in locations that we think would work best in terms of collecting that data. Traffic sensors means we can have real-time monitoring of our traffic network. We don’t have to wait for others to tell us where the congestion is; we will know before anybody else knows and we can manage that process. We can also use the information for projects when we’re trying to work out whether a road is busy or fully utilised or if it can be used for another purpose. This data will help support that as well.

“There are also sensors we can add that cover usage of parking bays or waste bin collection. There are many options. The sensors tell us when things are full, when they’ve been used, how often they’ve been used or how we can make changes to our cyclical maintenance regime – which saves the Corporation money but also drives best practice.

“The mesh technology has provided us with a robust platform for the street lighting aspect. It’s worked really well, hasn’t let us down. It’s a good system that gives us an element of scalability as well so we can add new sensors to interact with.

“It’s easy to use, so now we can start to add other sensors and have a rounded smart city solution, but all linked to one place, with one click of a button and collecting key data for the Corporation.”