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London – shaping up to smart

With a new mayor in town, it’s a good time to take a look at the smart London landscape, by Melony Rocque

London's population is set to hit between 9.3 - 9.5m by 2023
London's population is set to hit between 9.3 - 9.5m by 2023

What is the most essential ingredient of a smart city?

By 2050 half the world will live in a town
By 2050 half the world will live in a town


London recorded a population of 8.2 million in the 2011 census. By 2023 this figure is projected to increase to between 9.3 and 9.5m, and by 2036 the numbers are pointing to 10–10.5m. To service all these lives, London will require 750,000 more jobs by 2036 than in 2011, a further 49,000 homes will be needed each year for the foreseeable future, and public transport will need to accommodate an eye-watering 5,000,000 more trips per day than in 2011 according to The Future of Smart report published last month.


Humans have become a race of urbanites. By 2050, 66 per cent of the world’s population will dwell in the city although, according to the United Nations, in Europe this is expected to be around a whopping 80 per cent. And the challenge is how both new and existing urban centres will wrestle with a whole set of challenging logistics that overcrowding, serious pressures on resources and the need for economic growth bring. The Smart Cities movement being pursued on a global scale is the movement by which these evolving societal challenges can be addressed, facilitated by digital technology.


In London, the Smart London Plan was launched in 2013 by incumbent Mayor Boris Johnson, and overseen by the Smart London Board, an impressive line-up of 23 experts including prominent academics, business personnel and entrepreneurs, working in partnership with London Universities, Future Cities Catapult, Tech City, digital businesses and infrastructure providers, together London Infrastructure plan 2050. It is part of an evolving vision by which London will grow, adapt and continue to make sense of the urban jungle.



The premise of a smart city is to connect and be connected. after all, the burgeoning information/data economy depends on it. It is a factor in international city comparisons as the more fast and furiously connected a city is, the more likely it is to perform economically. In London: the Global Powerhouse, published in February this year, London’s connectivity has been described as a bar bell: weights at the end but nothing in the middle, “giving the impression of being either excellent or poor”. Although in the City, where fibre optics are available, connectivity is superb.


The report points out though while connectivity in the UK is on a par with Europe (in terms of timings and costs), it falls short of that experienced by strong Asian economies. It states: “Across London there needs to be an economically viable mix, such as fibre broadband, mobile and future methods of wireless internet delivery. Overall we need to upgrade the telecommunication infrastructure, have global hub technology and innovation, and evolve into a truly connected economy. This is a key aspect of staying globally competitive. Issues with infrastructure growth capacity under BT must be addressed alongside the long running issues of EU state aid rules on reclassifying internet provision as a utility.”


Not surprisingly, the Future of Smart calls for superfast broadband across London, so that the capital can really optimise on the Internet of Things (IoT). Connectivity issues have been addressed throughout the mayoral term. A Connectivity Advisory board was established to encourage London’s internet advisors to work with City Hall to boost connectivity and deliver rapid, universal access to the internet from mobile and fixed devices.


Under Boris, the Mayoral Office was calling for 99 per cent of properties in the capital to have access to affordable superfast connections by 2018. City Hall believes that by moving to superfast connection could boost London’s economy by £4bn by 2024.


A number of connectivity initiatives have been running in London to aid and abet connectivity. The publishing of the Interactive Connectivity map for example, not only allows residents and businesses register for faster broadband, but also shows London’s 500 or so service providers where there is need for improved services, as well as encouraging new providers to target underserved areas.


A Connectivity Ratings Scheme has also been launched, providing tech companies and SMEs with the means of identifying buildings that meet their connectivity needs in a bid to garner landlords to improve the connectivity of their properties, prior to tenants moving in.



Data is the lifeblood of a smart city – a means of gaining insights into how to serve citizens, and a way of creating business through its analytics. In London there is more data freely available to everybody than any other city via the London Data Store.


Established in 2010 and upgraded in 2014, The London Data Store is a free and open data sharing portal where data relating to the city can be accessed by citizens, business owners, researchers and developers. Winner of the 2015 ODI Open Data Publisher Award, it provides over 500 datasets to aid understanding of how the city works in order to create solutions to London’s problems. It is also fuelling the development of a number of digital businesses. For example, Transport for London (TfL) the organisation responsible for all transport, its movement and management in the capital, makes its data available both through its website and the London DataStore. Over 6,000 developers have registered to receive datasets and over 460 apps have been created like Citymapper, designed to ease weary commuter journeys.


City Hall, too, has started building its own data products to demonstrate the possibilities of what can be done with its digital information. These include examples such as the Infrastructure Mapping Application (IMA LDN), an interactive mapping tool that visualises infrastructure planning and delivery throughout the capital.


Last month, Data for London, a city data strategy was published, setting out the case for a ‘city data’ approach where the city government sets out, against the backdrop of challenges and opportunity, the big data it wishes to see exploited. The strategy pushes beyond open data, calling for improved, harmonised data sharing across the London boroughs and increasing the amount of published data that comes from the private sector.



Like cities the world over, London’s challenge is to reduce its dependency on fossil fuels in a bid to tackle the problem of climate change. In London, Boris Johnson’s Mayoral office set a target to reduce London’s carbon dioxide emissions by 60 per cent of their 1990 level by 2025. The majority of emissions are due to the heating and powering of buildings with the rest coming from transport.


Along with the London Energy plan that considers how much energy London may need in the future, where it would be required and how it would be generated, a number of creative solutions to energy problems are actively being considered. Thames Water is set to install 900,000 smart meters in London homes plus new district level meters in the mains network over the next five years, helping to sort out leakage, behaviour change and allow for ‘Smart’ tariffs and gamification.


Earlier this year the Royal Borough of Greenwich was chosen as a test bed area for the Smart Cities and Communities Lighthouse programme, part of a €25m pan-European effort looking to demonstrate how new technology can help develop and improve the lives of city residents. Initatives in Greenwich include using the River Thames as a renewable energy source to heat local homes, installing solar panels on homes to provide green energy and improve energy efficiency. Local energy partners will manage supply and demand via digital technology in a bid to reduce energy bills and carbon emissions.


Much of London’s energy supply is determined by international markets so the need to look to local energy sources has been encouraged by a national £10 million loan fund administered by the Urban Community Energy Fund available to individuals, communities and businesses.

Other initiatives like the Decentralised Energy Project Delivery Unit (DEPDU) is helping London boroughs get decentralised energy projects off the ground. This initiative is already helping 19 projects, worth a total investment of £210m, come to market.


London has begun to establish itself as a leader in smart grid innovation. According to Arup’s Smart City Opportunities for London report published last month, of four Smart Grid/Metering projects currently being trialled by UK Power Networks, which aim to improve management, storage and use of energy as well as improving efficiency and reducing costs, three of these are being trialled exclusively in London.



Look to the East and you’ll see the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, the capital’s new smart region and a legacy of the Olympic games. Along with five world-class sporting venues, cultural and university district, new media and digital hub, the park is set to offer 10,000 new homes.


The digital hub Here East is built on the former press and media centres of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. It uses the facilities and connectivity created for the global press during the Games and is accelerating this to offer the most advanced digital infrastructure in Europe supported by London’s largest data centre by Infinity SDC. This ‘digital campus’ will see the highest concentration of digital enterprises in the country from established IT giants such as BT Sport (which began broadcasting from here in 2013) as well as a range of entrepreneurial small start-ups. The whole ‘digital campus’ is planned for completion in 2018 and is expected to provide space for 7,500 jobs on site and within the local community.


This smart park will be home to five new neighbourhoods, with the first being Chobham Manor situated to the North of the park. Developed jointly by London and Quadrant and Taylor Wimpey, 75 per cent of the 828 new homes will be designed for families.


In total the park will have approximately 8, 000 sustainably designed homes, three schools, nine nurseries, seven community spaces and three health centres. Homes are designed to optimise sunlight and daylight while rainwater harvesting will irrigate green roofs and gardens. All dwellings will be low-water use enabled, with smart meters to allow residents to keep a check on resource consumption. Boilers will be a thing of the past, with a low carbon distribution heating system providing affordable heating. By 2020 it is estimated that home recycling and compositing should be 60 per cent (compared to a London average today of 32 per cent). By 2025, it is planned that no municipal waste should go directly to landfill.




The Pathway to Driverless Cars summary report and action plan launched last year concluded that the UK is a unique position to assist in the development of automated vehicles and bring them to market. A so–called ‘light touch’, non-regulatory approach to the testing and development of these vehicles through a code of practice will allow for long distance and public road testing. The UK’s status as a ‘Megacity’ in Europe in combination for challenging and diverse traffic, weather and road conditions makes the UK a natural centre of choice for the development of this technology.


This summer will see the Greenwich peninsular hosting public trials of driverless vehicles as part of its Greenwich Automated Transport Environment or GATEway project. Three British companies working collaboratively using home-grown engineering and software capabilities -- Westfield Sportscars, Heathrow Enterprises and Oxbotica ­-- will adapt and further develop the existing Ultra PODS currently in service at Heathrow Airport. Operating at Terminal 5 for nearly five years, these pods have already carried 1.5 million passengers and completed 3 million kilometres of fully automated operation. Led by Westfield Sportcars, these pods will now be adapted to navigate the streets of Greenwich without the need for dedicated tracks.


Heathrow Enterprises will be responsible for vehicle software engineering, while Oxbotica will be deploying its vertically integrated autonomy solution, which includes mapping, localisation, perception and trajectory planning, to enable the safe operation of fully driverless shuttles in Greenwich. Thanks to a cloud-based management system, pods will be able to operate as a self-governing ecosystem, administered by smartphone booking applications, monitoring and reporting.






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