Navigant Research Blog

Bristol Claims Top Spot as UK Cities Step Up Innovation Programmes

— November 3, 2017

The UK Smart Cities Index 2017, commissioned by Huawei, provides a timely review of the progress of smart cities in the UK and offers insights for urban innovation projects around the world. Bristol gains the top spot in the new index, a reflection of the city’s continued investment in programmes such as Bristol Is Open and the growing integration between innovation projects with the city’s operations. The city exemplifies the way smart city concepts are gradually being embedded at the heart of city policy. While Bristol edges ahead of London this year, the UK capital is also showing a strong commitment to driving smart city innovation, notably with the recent appointment of a new Chief Digital Officer. Following the two Leaders is a strong group of Contenders led by Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, Milton Keynes, Glasgow, and Nottingham.

Innovation Highlights

The scope of work being done across the UK is highlighted in the report in a series of Innovation Awards that showcase leadership in 10 areas. The first five awards focus on specific areas of city services:

Transportation: Many UK cities are looking at technologies to reduce congestion and transport-related emissions, and Milton Keynes stands out for its range of projects and its close alignment with the city’s broader strategy for growth. Its initiatives include mobility apps, EV and automated vehicles, and a new citywide intelligent traffic light management system.

Health: Supporting aging populations and reducing health inequalities, notably in terms of differences in life expectation between communities, are high priorities. Leeds is a leader among UK cities in exploring the possibilities of more integrated approaches to health and social care, the role of technologies in supporting people throughout their lives, and the importance of data in improving health outcomes.

Energy: As Navigant Research has highlighted, energy is an increasingly important issue for many cities in the UK and elsewhere. Not only is energy policy a key element in any broader sustainability target, it is also closely connected to transport, housing, and health policies. Among several cities driving new energy programmes, Nottingham gains the Innovation Award for its city-owned energy company, foundational energy projects, and new community energy schemes exploring the use of solar and storage solutions.

Education: One of the significant trends identified in the study is the closer relationship developing between local government and the university sector. Among the cities working in new ways with their universities to drive smart city projects are Bristol, Cambridge, and Oxford. But the Innovation Award goes to Newcastle for the role the University of Newcastle has taken in the establishment of Newcastle City Futures and in directing and supporting a range of digital programmes in the city—as well as the establishment of the Science Central facility.

Public Safety: As most UK cities have already deployed extensive closed-circuit TV systems, the focus is now on coordination and the better use of video analysis and other forms of analytics. Glasgow has led the way in the creation of a new city operations centre, the showcase development from its smart city demonstrator award.

Cities are exploring the potential for new technologies in each of these service areas, they also realise the need to join up these programmes through more holistic approaches and the development of common platforms. In my next blog, I will look at the cities leading the way in these areas.

 

Realizing the Potential of Street Lighting Networks

— July 27, 2017

Navigant Research expects 73 million connected street lights to be deployed globally by 2026. This will be an immense asset for cities able to use these smart nodes as part of an emerging city mesh of sensors and smart devices. However, while the potential of smart street lighting is clear, there are still several hurdles to faster adoption. As Richelle Elberg noted in a new Echelon-sponsored white paper, we must examine the complex issues around the network choices facing cities—and technical complexities are only part of the problem. The Echelon white paper and Navigant Research’s recent Smart Street Lighting for Smart Cities report both identify five key messages for cities as they consider their street lighting policy:

  • Consider street lighting upgrades as part of an Internet of Things (IoT) strategy. Any city looking to deploy a street lighting network should at least have an outlined plan for how it will engage with the growth in the use of digital and IoT technologies for city operations and services. How do these developments fit with existing city development strategies? What are the priority local issues and what are the local assets that provide the starting point and make the plan distinct to the needs of this city?
  • Find new ways to collaborate across departments. The potential to add future services to a street lighting network means that coordination across city departments on procurement is essential. Restricting the procurement to the traditional concerns of the lighting department may limit the ability to realize future benefits. Coordination of networking requirements and procurement across multiple city departments—and even involvement of other stakeholders such as local utilities—should be considered.
  • Think about problems first. While there are a wide range of potential use cases for a multi-application network, not all will have the same priority. Just because many applications can be supported on a street lighting network does not mean that all will be equally important to all cities. As a leader of a successful smart city program recently said: “our secret is that we always start with a city problem not a technology.”
  • Understand the diversity of requirements. While integration across departments and the consolidation of requirements is a sensible approach, it is also important to realize that one approach will not satisfy all needs. Most cities are likely to require different communication solutions to address the span of smart city applications, from low risk Living Lab projects, to specific services applications such as street lighting and smart parking, to critical city systems for public safety. The future of city networking will be a hybrid.
  • Recognize that street lights are a city asset. In a world that depends on ubiquitous access to power and connectivity, the street lighting network is a valuable resource. In addition to providing a platform for new sensors and applications to improve the efficiency of city services, they can also be a source of new revenue. Street lighting poles are being used to extend cellular and Wi-Fi access, to integrate EV charging equipment, and as digital signage sites for advertisers.

Where Do We Go from Here?

Installing smart controls for street lighting at the same time as an LED upgrade program is a logical and cost-effective step to enhancing the value of the city lighting system. In 2017, smart street lights represent only about 2% of the installed base of street lights; there is still immense potential for better utilization of these valuable city assets.

Installed Base of Smart Street Lights by Region, World Markets: 2017-2026

(Source: Navigant Research)

For further detail on smart city applications, street lighting as a platform, and the relevant connectivity platforms, see the Navigant Research white paper, Smart Street Lighting as a Smart City Platform. The Executive Summary from the Smart Street Lighting for Smart Cities report is also available.

 

San Diego Aims to Set the Pace for Smart City Networks

— April 21, 2017

The announcement by the City of San Diego that it will deploy over 3,000 smart sensors as part of an ambitious upgrade to its street lighting system provides evidence that we are on the cusp of a new phase for smart street lighting and city networks.

As part of an upgrade to 14,000 city lights, San Diego will deploy 3,200 of GE’s Current CityIQ sensor nodes to create a multi-application city Internet of Things (IoT) network. The intelligent nodes can support a range of applications, including gunshot detection, smart parking, air quality sensing, and vehicle and pedestrian monitoring. Deployment of the platform and fixtures is expected to begin in July and to be completed before the end of 2018. The upgrade is expected to save the city $2.4 million annually in energy costs.

Platform for Innovation

As well as supporting a number of smart city applications, San Diego is also looking at the network to provide a broader platform for innovation. According to David Graham, San Diego’s deputy chief operating officer, the goal is to allow the community “to put their hands on the heartbeat and nervous system of the city is our way of building a smart city app store.” Delivering on this vision will put San Diego at the leading edge of smart city innovations.

The project fits with broader trends in the smart city market. The benefits of LED lighting are now widely understood by cities and many also recognize the value of providing network connections to those lamp poles (even if local finances and politics can still be a barrier to actual adoption). There is strong evidence that smart street lighting is crossing the chasm to becoming a mainstream technology.

However, the use of street lighting networks as a multi-application platform for smart city development has yet to make that leap. Today, deploying and managing a connected street lighting network is challenging enough for many lighting and public works departments. They need to ensure this upgrade goes smoothly and that significant benefits are provided to the city in terms of cost savings and improved lighting services. In this context, implementing additional sensor applications is not a priority. In addition, the business case for implementing these secondary applications is harder to develop, involves the scoping of new projects, and requires buy-in from a wider range of stakeholders. For these reasons, most cities still see the deployment of additional application on their street lighting network as a pilot project, at best.

Lighting the Way

However, there are signs that these issues are being overcome. San Diego aims to lead the way, but it is not alone. Cities like Copenhagen, which is deploying a street lighting platform from Silver Spring Networks, and Eindhoven, working on an innovative lighting strategy with Philips, are also in the advanced guard—among others. As other cities gain confidence from the experience of these leading adopters, smart street lighting will move into its most exciting phase yet.

For further discussion about some of the most exciting developments in smart cities, please join us for the upcoming free webinar from Navigant Research, Smart Cities and the Energy Transformation, on April 25 at noon EDT. Click here to register.

 

Envision Charlotte: Putting Data at the Heart of Smart City Programs

— March 10, 2017

Established in 2011 as a non-profit, public-private partnership to improve energy efficiency and sustainability in the City of Charlotte in North Carolina, Envision Charlotte has a particular place in the growing list of smart city projects in the United States. The founding project was a collaboration between Duke Energy, Charlotte Center City Partners, and a number of supplier partners, including Cisco, Itron, and Verizon, to make 61 large commercial buildings in downtown Charlotte more energy efficient. Today, the program has expanded to tackle a range of projects and sustainability goals, including energy efficiency, water conservation, and air quality. Moreover, the project is having a direct influence on other US cities through the development of the Envision America program.

I recently had a chance to catch up with Amy Aussieker, the executive director for Envision Charlotte, to discuss progress. Aussieker outlined the four key pillars the program currently focuses on:

  • Energy: The program continues to build on the success of its initial project with the city’s commercial buildings. The aim of that project was to reduce building energy consumption by 20%, and it has so far delivered around $20 million in energy savings. A grant from the US Department of Energy is now enabling the project to be rolled out to an additional 200 buildings. The project also seeded a commercial program from Duke Energy to address the potential for energy savings in offices across its service territories.
  • Water: Improving water efficiency and quality is the next priority for the program. Itron, for example, has deployed smart water meters in 22 downtown buildings that are part of the original energy savings program. The goal is to collect data on water consumption for a year to help shape water management programs and to develop benchmarks for building managers. Envision Charlotte is also working with Charlotte Water, the local water company, as it looks to meet growing pressures on the regional water system.
  • Air quality: A growing area of focus for Envision Charlotte is air pollution. Car and truck usage are the biggest contributors to air quality problems in the city, and projects are being established to encourage people to reduce vehicle miles and use local transit systems. However, there is little data available on local air quality conditions, so it is difficult to monitor the impact of specific interventions. The team is examining how it can create benchmarks to show the effectiveness of different programs.
  • Waste reduction: The fourth pillar of the program is waste reduction. Envision Charlotte is trying to help reduce the 5 million pounds of solid waste sent to landfills by the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County residents and businesses every day. This is another area where the team is looking to collect more data, particularly around recycling rates and how to improve them.

Looking Ahead, Data Is Key

Envision Charlotte is building on its initial successes, looking to scale up proven solutions and identifying new issues to address. The program also continues to extend its links in the community and has developed close ties with the University of North Carolina, which is hoping to develop a smart city center of excellence.

One thing common to all of the program’s initiatives is the importance given to data collection and analysis. Data is seen as key to understanding the root causes of the issues being addressed and to developing solutions that are effective and viable. Using sensors and smart devices to gather that data is not a technical demonstration exercise, but rather, a necessary step to developing effective programs for change. This helps ensure that investments are made in the right projects while also helping to build momentum and ensure successful programs feed enthusiasm for the next project.

The recent announcement of the 2017 Envision America award winners provides further evidence of the Charlotte team’s impact. The program leverages the success of Envision Charlotte to accelerate deployment of innovative technologies in other cities. The aim is for cities to learn from the experience of Charlotte, but also to find their own model fitting local circumstances and priorities. Charlotte is becoming an important node in the growing network of smart cities worldwide that are sharing ideas and developing robust and effective approaches to common city problems.

 

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