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City of London switches on to connected lighting

City of London teams with Itron, Wi-SUN Alliance for smart lighting project to brighten up urban experience of historic parts of the UK capital

Any local authority would jump at the chance of reducing its power consumption – typically one of the highest of authorities’ cost lines – while still performing statutory duties regarding public safety, and the City of London has embarked on a smart lighting project to do just this.

In partnership with critical infrastructure services technology provider Itron and the Wi-SUN Alliance, the authority is lighting up its historic territory with over 15,000 luminaires, comprising 9,500 street lights and 1,600 special forms of lighting such as uplighters and strip lighting.

In explaining the scope of the project and the need to get connected, Giles Radford, head of highway construction and infrastructure at the City of London, revealed that the authority’s biggest asset was also its biggest challenge. It had struggled with integrating new architectural projects within the narrow streets, alleys and hidden areas that provide the area’s characteristic historical feel and which attract thousands of tourists and businesses alike.

In addition, and most importantly, the authority had an unmetered supply of energy to the lighting and was suffering from rising energy stocks, especially as so many new developments were piling into the city. Historically, lights were only activated by a simple message to switch on or off. The problem was compounded by the fact that much of the lighting stock was over 30 years old and reaching the end of its useful life.

After a major service-based review, the decision was made to undertake a project to replace the old units, as well as adopt an internet of things (IoT) approach to street lighting, deploying new technologies to reduce maintenance costs and energy consumption, and to complement other programmes run by the City, such as environmental monitoring.

“Our street light strategy and infrastructure is the first in the UK. We now don’t have to blast everywhere in the city with light to get places well-lit”
Giles Radford, City of London

With Itron providing a central management system for tunable LED lighting connected by Wi-SUN technology, the City of London was able to set a new scene for its historic assets, which were grouped into 15 designated areas.

Some 12,000 lights are now being deployed in a two-year project that should be completed in 2020, supported by 10 gateways, using Wi-SUN tech self-forming and self-healing functions to add devices to the network, as well as software-based security offerings from UrbanControl to comply with the City’s stringent requirements. The City has rolled out the smart lighting to its main and side roads, and plans to extend the functionality to footways and alleys by March 2020.

Reflecting on the progress made so far, Radford reported “superb” results, appreciating the gains made from using a dashboard that showed “heat maps” of the lighting network.

“The room for opportunity is growing,” he said. “Our street light strategy and infrastructure is the first in the UK. We now don’t have to blast everywhere in the city with light to get places well-lit. To gain a sense of place, we need to consider crime and disorder, road damage, tourism events and building aesthetics.”

Benefits gained so far include a significant reduction in energy consumption, as the authority was able to move to a system of real-time reporting rather than employ the old method of night scouting on assets. The Mesh Wi-SUN network is said to have responded to controls and switching much faster than a traditional cloud network could.

Going forward, the City is trialling other sensors on its network to gain visibility on traffic, air quality and parking, with an extra specific consideration for cyclists in the city. Indeed, it plans to be able to offer dedicated and increased lighting to those areas where there is high cycle use at peak times.

Summing up the deployment, Radford concluded: “We can now have the right light at the right place at the right time.”

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