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Innovation hub Digital Catapult is to set up an internet of things (IoT) network in London to empower digital startups and small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to embrace and experiment with the technology, and innovate to improve the lives of Londoners, in a programme called Things Connected.
The network will comprise 50 long range wide area network (LoRaWAN) base stations to which users will be able to connect free of charge, creating a testbed to support evolving IoT technologies. The network will be continually enhanced with low power wide area network (LPWAN) technology as it develops.
The use of LPWAN technology in such testbeds is considered important for a number of reasons, explained Saverio Romeo, principal analyst at Beecham Research, which has provided substantial input into the Things Connected scheme.
“LPWANs offer a low-cost connectivity option to connect a large number of IoT devices over long distances in a power-efficient and cost-effective way, opening up enormous potential for a new wave of IoT applications,” said Romeo.
“Key features of LPWANs, such as low consumption of energy and low cost of deployment, give opportunities to SMEs to explore territories and ideas, not possible with other forms of connectivity,” he added.
Among some of the applications that Digital Catapult anticipates will be explored are improving road safety for pedestrians and cyclists; reducing air pollution to improve quality of life for people with conditions such as bronchitis or asthma; and optimising the use of drones in London.
However, it is hoped that the programme will ultimately expand beyond the city’s boundaries.
“Things Connected is starting in London but we want it to cover the UK,” said Digital Catapult CEO Jeremy Silver.
“This is the beginning of our work. We aim to roll Things Connected out to help remove the barriers to IoT technology for businesses, and create revenue opportunities for entrepreneurs and for smaller and larger companies,” said Silver.
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Figures compiled at Digital Catapult suggest the UK IoT marketplace is currently worth £13.3bn and could rise to £20bn by 2018.
The Things Connected programme is seen as a first step in the creation of a national support programme for other LPWAN test sites, which will ultimately see more local IoT hubs spring up around the UK if everything goes according to plan.
Rajesh Agrawal, deputy mayor for business, added his support for the programme, saying innovation would be key to keeping London competitive and productive into the future, particularly in a post-Brexit environment.
“By continuing to make our city smart and connected, we are showing that London is Open as we work to improve the lives and wellbeing of many by tackling the big issues we face in healthcare, transport and energy,” said Agrawal.