There’s so much excitement surrounding the Internet of Things (IoT) that it can be hard to see where the hype ends and the real value begins. It’s easy to be swept away by a torrent of numbers: by 2020 we’re told to expect more than 28 billion connected devices, a market worth some $1.7 trillion, and a ten-fold increase in global data.
If you’re looking for evidence that the IoT explosion has finally begun, look no further than London. Boasting robust infrastructure alongside a dense population, central London is the ideal testing ground for new innovations and business models derived from the IoT. To return to those pesky numbers for a moment, London’s on course to attract £8.9 billion in global IoT investment by 2020, with Huawei recently ranking it as the UK’s smartest city.
Today, the foundations are already being laid for the smarter London of tomorrow, which will be able to orchestrate billions of connected things and react seamlessly and intelligently to new demands. Amid the raucous hype surrounding the IoT, you might have missed central London quietly switching on a dedicated, free network of 50 base stations that businesses can use to test their connected technologies.
Build it and they will come, as the old saying goes, but what IoT projects are already a reality in the capital? To find out, let’s take a whistle-stop tour through just one area – transport.
London City Airport began rolling out connected things in 2013 to ‘de-stress’ the passenger experience and create cost savings. Backed by £800,000 from the UK’s Technology Strategy Board, the project marks a first for any airport worldwide and delivers a variety of new capabilities, from harnessing facial recognition to predict and prevent queues, to tracking passengers and their bags to stop anyone boarding without their luggage. Wireless connectivity also allows airport equipment, such as steps, tugs and charging units, to be tracked in real-time to ensure the fastest possible turnaround for aircraft and on-time departures.
Hop over the Thames to Greenwich and driverless cars – or more accurately six-person pods – are also taking to the capital’s roads for the first time. The GATEway project is an £8 million rollout that aims to help passengers, industries and governments better understand the biggest change to motoring since the arrival of horseless carriages. Using a combination of sensors, cameras, lasers and software, the vehicles will be able to navigate around Greenwich autonomously. Although restricted to tracks, similar autonomous pods have been operating at Heathrow Terminal 5 for nearly five years already; in fact, they’ve carried 1.5 million passengers more than three million kilometres to date.
Elsewhere, the IoT is literally under the feet of Londoners, with smart escalators, lifts and rail tracks being rolled out across the Tube. Telent, one of London Underground’s major contractors, is deploying connected equipment that can sense faults as they begin to occur. With real-time monitoring powered by Microsoft Azure, TFL can then rapidly assess the problem, put in place contingencies and schedule repairs. By harnessing the IoT, TFL has significantly improved passenger services while also reducing management costs by around a third.
What are you missing?
Of course, hundreds of smaller IoT projects are also underway in London. From harvesting renewable energy from the Thames, to smart parking spaces, or UK’s first connected shop, initiatives are being piloted across the capital as part of a €25 million European smart city programme. The opportunities are endless.
All this makes central London the perfect sandbox to experiment with new ideas. With highly connected IT in the heart of the capital, your business can pilot its own projects, or be amongst the first to harness new opportunities. With a critical mass people alongside your essential IT systems, your business will be ideally placed to take advantage of emerging technologies and services to solve challenges, amaze customers and enhance competitiveness.
More information is available on techUK’s Future Connected Rail activities.
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