As the concept of Smart Cities evolves, it is evident that so are their requirements. There can be a number of contributing factors that shape the way a smart city behaves and, eventually, interacts with its citizens; these are usually influenced by the environmental and economic pressures that respective urban centres regularly face. Climate change is certainly something that has had a major impact in recent years, with higher snow and rainfall causing lasting damage to businesses and homes throughout the UK.

Many cities have perpetual issues with flooding, for others the major pain point is mobility in times of adverse weather conditions, such as snow. To solve the individual problems of these boroughs, a tailor made solution is required that responds to the real world difficulties they respectively face. Making these urban hubs ‘smart’ means something completely different depending on the needs of their citizens, but a shared theme is that they ultimately need to be responsive.

The things that remain a constant throughout all cities are their similar infrastructure and a requirement to improve quality of life for citizens, which should be the focus points of smart city development today. Although defining the exact scope for a universal smart city is not possible, it is possible to use the information we do know and develop flexible solutions that fit within current, recurring city features.

Street lights – guiding the way beyond illumination

Every city throughout the world uses street lights. Whether it is to guide the way or to control traffic, the existing infrastructure is there; what’s more is that columns are located pretty much everywhere. Their unassuming and sometimes unnoticed characteristics mean they are not only doing their job properly, but they have the potential to help solve some of the issues cities face when it comes to natural disasters and extreme weather.

With the evolution of IoT and ‘smart’ applications, it is now possible to monitor and (to a certain level) control how a city responds to environmental influences. Sensors can be implemented within many hardware assets, such as street lights, and can monitor a whole host of factors, from temperature to air quality. Using this technology, urban spaces can become more intuitive to environmental issues by collecting the vital information required to map out an effective, citizen centric solution.

Monitoring Flooding - slowing the flow

By using sensor enabled street lighting, local authorities can monitor a number of environmental factors that are known to increase the risk of flooding. From air moisture and temperature, to water and rainfall levels, lamppost sensors can gather the information required to provide valuable insight for local authorities.

Danger zones can be pin pointed and monitored on a real time basis, where updates can be communicated to residents within these areas, almost instantly. Rainfall can be monitored at all times, enabling city leaders to develop a contingency plan prior to the first signs of flooding. This could involve ensuring drains are cleared or that sandbags are provided to the local community.

The tall and robust nature of a streetlight is an added advantage when it comes to monitoring flooding. Placing sensors both at the top and bottom of the column can help monitor different things, for example: rainfall levels at the top and rising water levels at the bottom. This will give a realistic idea of timescale and potential damage, so residents can be informed and prepared accordingly.

Snow and sensing – efficient gritting

Lamppost sensors could also prove vital when it comes to understanding gritting requirements and effectively managing resources. Sensing the temperature both at ground and luminaire level will give city leaders insight into dropping temperatures and the likelihood of high snowfall.

Understanding this means local authorities have more control over the gritting resources and priority schedule for their own region, rather than relying on the general weather forecasts provided by news channels. By having a dedicated infrastructure that delivers real time and accurate localised weather and temperature reports, bespoke information can be captured to assist those working in the field.

A great drain on council resource and budget is the unnecessary spreading of gritting salt, either in the wrong areas or when the temperature doesn’t necessarily deem the need. Using IoT sensors to read the road temperature helps to precisely pin point the exact areas that require attention and not only limit wastage but ensure major pedestrian and traffic routes remain accessible. 

Adhering to requirements

Understanding the everyday issues affecting UK cities is only possible by collaboration and communication. It is evident that councils throughout the UK have their own challenges when it comes to coping with the effects of climate change, while managing government legislation against a strained budget.

Pro-actively scoping requirements today can help councils better understand the realistic solutions available to them in the near future. Budgets can be salvaged by applying new technology to existing city furniture, such as lampposts, that works for the specific and unique needs of city dwellers. It is only through discussing these requirements with industry specialists that a bespoke model can be created.

No one city is the same, so how can we expect to develop a ‘one size fits all’ smart city solution? 

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