Legacy Assets, New Horizons: Why Interoperability Matters for Smart Cities

José Costa - Product and Engineering Manager- Schréder Hyperion
José Costa
Product and Engineering Manager - Schréder Hyperion

Cities grow organically. Over millennia, urban centres have evolved diverse infrastructures that reflect the needs of their citizens, businesses and visitors. As they grow, innovations such as public transport, the motor car and the internet have changed how we live; the latest evolution, the smart city era, is using the so-called Internet of Things (IoT) to improve citizens’ daily lives.

Street lighting has existed for more than a century now, and is no exception to these changes, which are taking lighting into a new era of remote management and energy optimisation. Behind every smart lighting system is a Central Management System (CMS) such as Schréder EXEDRA.

At Schréder, we created Schréder EXEDRA to be Simple, Modular, Automation-driven, Resilient and Trustable - as every option on the market should be. In this blog, we dive into what Modular means and why cities should always opt for interoperable solutions. 

Why Modular? 

Cities are the natural home of innovation. Managers should look for infrastructure systems that open up choices, not shut down options. Modularity means that existing lighting and control assets can be seamlessly integrated with new acquisitions and Schréder EXEDRA itself. 

The benefits of interoperability are recognised by governments and citizens alike. In the EU’s strategy for an interoperable Europe, they note that public sector interoperability “provides important opportunities for public sector efficiency, economic growth, customer satisfaction and innovation.” And with cities at the forefront of fighting climate change, buying new assets instead of integrating existing ones is deeply wasteful.  

Collaboration is the key to a sustainable future. Luminaires, sensors, fibre networks, electric vehicle (EV) charging points, security systems, cables and utilities: none of them exist in isolation. By definition, a smart city is a connected one. Truly modular, interoperable IoT systems can onboard everything from heritage luminaires to EV charging systems. Through Schréder EXEDRA, we have provided customers with bespoke solutions from a platform that links together existing IoT assets, to new luminaires, and nodes that fit into existing non-Schréder street lighting.

Interoperable lighting systems open up a myriad of possibilities for smart cities

FutureProof for Growing Cities

More than half of the world’s population currently lives in urban areas, and by 2050, 68% of us will be living in cities, according to UN forecasts, and cities need to be able to cope with this growth. The main benefit of having an open, interoperable system is that it is futureproof.

Systems such as Schréder EXEDRA exist thanks to standards that are supported by huge communities and alliances, such as TALQ. TALQ was founded in 2012 and offers a globally accepted interface standard for smart city device networks, supported by a consortium of smart outdoor lighting vendors, including Schréder.

Interoperable systems are also easier to integrate. Let’s imagine that a city has a legacy CMS system that employees already know inside out. They want to add more assets, but the IoT platform itself is becoming very slow and impossible to improve without a full re-architecture. There is another, more modular, way.  

Interoperability means the CMS provider can offer an IoT solution that can connect their devices to a platform like Schréder EXEDRA using a TALQ Cloud-to-Cloud bridge, or similar. Through this plug-and-play solution, they can combine a state-of-the-art IoT platform with the familiarity of the existing CMS, reducing process changes, training costs and greatly improving functionality.

Open, Interoperable, London

Situated just north of Central London, the Borough of Haringey provides services, including street lighting, for 270,000 residents. Having switched to LED lighting and benefited from energy and financial savings over the last decade, Haringey Council wanted to look into IoT capabilities, opting for a smart lighting solution powered by Schréder EXEDRA.

Schréder EXEDRA connected all the street lights in Haringey to create an interoperable lighting network for future smart city projects

With nearly 20,000 luminaires and street signs from different manufacturers, they needed a system that was truly interoperable. The challenge was to create paths for communication, data sharing and enriched visibility from multiple connected endpoints that could support Haringey’s immediate and longer-term smart city objectives.

Using TALQ’s open protocol, we established true interoperability between Schréder and third-party controllers and assets across the borough. We captured comprehensive and valuable insights and supported integration with third-party maintenance and energy reporting software. Haringey created an interoperable ‘phygital’ foundation, aligning technologies and enabling data sharing and analysis.

This has been key to Haringey’s impressive reduction in carbon emissions of 69%, playing a huge part in getting London to net zero. Residents are happy, and streets are well-lit.

Flexible, Agile, Secure

Having an open and interoperable system means that customers are not locked in to any one proprietary technology due to compatibility issues. This has a direct positive impact on the sustainability of the stakeholder, in several ways.

Stakeholders can focus on changing and replacing parts, reducing costs greatly, and environmental impacts. Ideally, luminaires should have universal sockets, where third-party controllers can connect and operate seamlessly. The CMS should also be able to onboard third-party controllers. The stakeholder is thus free to keep their luminaires, onboard new controllers, integrate with third-party systems (such as asset management systems) or whichever combination of these functions they choose. This reduces overall costs and enables a gradual transition to smart city status.

People, Planet, Providers: Everyone Benefits

Interoperable systems benefit cities, residents and the planet alike. They offer a futureproof, secure way of connecting, controlling, and monitoring assets. According to Statista, there are approximately 15.14 billion connected IoT devices worldwide, equivalent to just under twice the global population. In an open system, public institutions benefit from every data point: it is possible to easily integrate data sources and make better decisions based on actual use.

Visitors and residents benefit from an attractive environment after dark; safer, well-lit (which is not the same as brightly-lit) streets make a city more appealing and give local businesses a boost. Bringing existing assets on board instead of fitting new ones means less disruption in the streets. 

Interoperable systems are a huge win for the planet and the circular economy. Effective management extends the life cycle of assets. There are nearly 350 million luminaires worldwide, and only 50% use LED. While smart luminaires are ramping up, they still represent a small percentage of light points globally. Given that LED lighting offers around 70% energy savings, and a smart light reduces the consumption of LED luminaires by another 30% on average, these energy savings cannot be left on the table. These savings will be crucial for achieving sustainability goals - and increase budget for other smart scenarios.

Modular Makes it Happen

Connection to government and utility entities can create the backbone of a multi-layered information database. From here, cities can connect their infrastructure to a smart ecosystem that can better support their citizens. Changing the lighting without changing the lights is a huge advantage for cities that want to improve daily life while playing their part in reaching climate change goals. To read more on why interoperability is crucial, read our white paper.  

For more details on what Schréder EXEDRA can offer, contact your local sales representative.

About the writer
José has over a decade of hands-on software engineering experience and is specialised in the design and development of cloud-based solutions. He joined Schréder Hyperion in 2019 and has since progressed to the role of Product & Engineering Manager of the Schréder EXEDRA platform and associated applications. His time at the company has been characterised by strategic leadership, innovative problem-solving, and a passion for driving the digital transformation of cities through state-of-the-art IoT technologies.

Connect with José on LinkedIn.