Smart Systems, Bright Futures: FutureProof Cities

Nicholas Church - Schréder Global Business Development Manager - Smart Cities
Nicholas Church
Global Business Development Manager - Smart Cities

Cities worldwide are harnessing the power of big data, AI and the Internet of Things (IoT) to improve everything from bus routes to refuse collection. Lighting shouldn’t be left out - with smart control systems, cities can create safe landscapes with a welcoming ambiance, as well as taking better control of their lighting network to use resources efficiently.

Here, as with everything we do, consultation with our customers is central. Some cities want a full overhaul: Owlet IoT, our remote management system, enables better asset management by anticipating maintenance, driving energy savings and using sensors to adapt lighting levels in real-time. Take a sports arena for example - when a game is happening, cities need full lighting of car parks, stations, approach routes and the stadium itself. The rest of the time, a lower lighting level will mean streets are safe without disturbing residents or wildlife. 

The openness of a system is a key consideration for many forward-thinking city planners: Owlet is fully interoperable and can be integrated with other CMS systems through our TALQ2 API. The same goes for the lighting modules - our luminaires have NEMA and Zhaga nodes built in. The IZYLUM and FLEXIA luminaires are among the first to receive Zhaga-D4i certification: this new certification promotes open and interoperable systems. All of this enables us to work with different hardware players in the industry to transform the visions of cities into reality. Just as interoperability opened a world of possibilities in computing and smartphone technologies, we strive to do the same with IoT lighting systems.

Creating a sense of safety for the public depends on a range of factors. The light level required to feel secure in a park is very different to that required on a main road - and in the urban environment, that means finding a lighting solution that can adapt. It also means making sure lighting provides crystal-clear rendering and shows colour accurately, especially in areas where CCTV and facial recognition may be in use.
 


A Smart Jewel in the City of Diamonds

The Belgian port city of Antwerp has a long history of innovation, and the authorities are building on that with the Slimme Zone, or Antwerp Smart Zone. Located in Sint-Andries, a densely-populated neighbourhood with narrow streets, busy shops and cafés and few parking places, the pilot project aims to see how smart technologies, sensors and cameras can improve the lives of residents. 

It’s a great place to try new things - Christoffel Plantijn, a famous innovator from the sixteenth century changed the world from his workshop, developing one of the most important printing works in history. 
 

For us, Plantijn is an eloquent example of how we intend to tackle innovation in Antwerp: bringing together local citizens, scientists, companies and the authorities to look at social challenges and to work on finding solutions, said Annik Schouteden, innovation and technology manager for the City of Antwerp.

Schréder is proud to be one of those companies, and we worked with the city, imec City of Things, Nokia Bell Labs and others to develop bespoke smart lighting solutions there. This project includes three main parts. The first is lighting that is activated automatically based on observations from motion sensors and cameras. And the second is lamp-posts that act as weather stations with colour-coded light signals to warn of approaching rain or snow showers. And the third is a system to discourage nighttime noise by turning up light intensity whenever sound sensors detect louder noise levels.

Smart lighting system with sound detectors adapts light levels in real-time to players can play in safety and comfort

The area even has a basketball court where luminaires have been fitted with motion and sound sensors responding to the start and end of the game, so that maximum light levels are only used while the game is in progress. We also took into account concerns about smart systems, including data being sent to the cloud and lag in system responses - both these issues have been resolved by local processing of data. 

 

Heavy Traffic, Lighter Lights

Although lighting systems incorporating motion detection sensors already exist, Zurich utility company EKZ wanted a solution that would adapt lighting levels based on the traffic density, rather than just the presence of a single vehicle. With Schréder, they decided to carry out a one-year pilot project over a 1-kilometre stretch on a main road in the Swiss town of Urdorf.
Together, we installed a new lighting system that ensured the safety of residents while protecting local wildlife and reducing energy consumption. A luminaire was fitted with an optical sensor that captures data regarding traffic density and sent to an Owlet control system.

Smart lighting system adapts the lighting levels according to traffic density in Urdorf, reducing energy consumption and protecting the local wildlife

The data is then converted into commands for the 27 luminaires along the strip of road - all of which can be individually controlled. The light changes imperceptibly and does not hinder motorists or residents during tests. Depending on traffic density, the lighting levels vary between 40% and 100%.

The local council and residents hailed the project a success a year after its launch: energy savings amounted to over 30%. The lighting was only at full capacity for one hour in the morning and three in the evening, meaning the rest of the time light levels were optimised down to help the natural ecosystems flourish. 

The project wasn’t just popular with locals, it was also awarded the Watt d’Or, a prestigious annual prize granted by the Swiss Federal Office of Energy to projects that benefit society. Schréder Swiss, in collaboration with EKZ, were presented with the Watt d’Or in January 2018, in the Energy Technology category for the scale of energy savings achieved. We’ve since installed the system in three cantons in Basel and look forward to helping more villages, cities and regions build up their own bespoke version of a smart, safe and energy-efficient lighting systems.

 

New World, Smart Systems

Just as interoperability opened a world of possibilities in computing and smartphone technologies, we are doing the same with IoT lighting systems. In Antwerp and Urdorf, we listened to clients’ needs, looked at the landscape and carefully considered which aspects of smart lighting would be most useful for them. 

Adding smart systems can be as little as just changing control systems for existing luminaires, or a total overhaul of existing structures - it depends on what people, spaces and the environment need. It’s a quantum leap from on/off to smart lighting, with lighting warmth, tone, intensity and countless other factors controlled remotely, by sensors or a combination of both. It’s endless possibilities - possibilities that we at Schréder can help you get the most out of.

 

About the writer

Passionate about building a sustainable future, Nicholas joined Schréder Hyperion, our Smart City Centre of Excellence, when it opened in 2019 in Lisbon. He is focusing on developing outdoor lighting control system offering to help cities build FutureProof lighting systems for smart city projects. Today he chairs the UCIFI marketing workgroup aimed at supporting and growing the UCIFI alliance that is intent on breaking down barriers to make smart city technologies more open. Nicholas studied Civil Engineering at Imperial College London, did an Erasmus in France and is now based in Portugal.

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