Making London Smarter

By Veronica Skiba - October 20, 2016

We read about smart cities all the time. But what does being smart actually mean and what makes a city more intelligent? 

Each city is a living organism, and as with every living being, it has many constituent parts, each fulfilling a separate role. The roads are its veins, the parks are its lungs, and the cultural and historical places are its beating heart. But to be fully operational the organism needs a nervous system and a brain. Cities create information. Information about the way they operate. Information about how they evolve. Information about how we live our lives and the effect that we have on our surroundings. Everything from insurance data to environmental concerns are affected. But until now much of that information has been going to waste. An intelligent city is able to process that data and make better decisions as a result.

Since January 2016 Concirrus has been involved in the Sharing Cities Project to make London a smart city. Our work, in collaboration with a range of other providers, is helping to build intelligent solutions for the Royal Borough of Greenwich that will enable policy makers to take decisions based on real-time data. This 5-year project, involving a consortium of 30 companies supported by the European Union under the Horizon2020 program, will ultimately allow planners in cities like London to incorporate massive amounts of data into their decision making. Utilising this data will allow new insights to be uncovered, enabling a more seamless, efficient urban operations. An initial demonstration will be launched this year in Greenwich.

As a brain needs senses to perceive its surroundings (sight, touch, smell etc.), a smart city needs sensors to gather information. These sensors, measuring everything from pollution data to energy consumption, are the eyes and ears of the city. Utilising this information is key and we are proud to be co-developing the project’s Urban Sharing Platform. Our innovative software solution will ingest all that data from myriad sensors and devices, allowing it to be analysed and mined for useful insight. As a result of this insight, more intelligent decisions can be taken. 

The Sharing Cities program is a proving-ground for a better, common approach to making smart cities a reality. Through international collaboration between various cities, the project seeks to develop affordable, integrated, commercial-scale smart city solutions with a high market potential. It supported by €24 million in EU funding.  

Concirrus also works closely with Lisbon and Milan. In addition, there are three "fellow" cities, Bordeaux, Burgas and Warsaw, that will apply the technology in the future.

Map of the project's geographical scope

The project's geographical scope

Work is progressing apace. On a weekly basis the members of each working package exchange experiences, knowledge and work to solve problems, building on solutions that individual partners have developed on their own. Indeed, collaboration within society is one of the four principles of the project. The others are; scalability, digital-first and an open market.

To ensure that all of us within the consortium are working in line with the project’s core principles, we communicate with our local and European partners as often we can. Collaboration with so many organisations from so many sectors is challenging, but at the same time it serves as a powerful way to cross-fertilise information. Once every few months we have workshops in one of our partner cities. During our last visit to Milan we were invited to see the demonstration area, Porta Romana. This ex-industrial district is in the process of re-generation and is now home to a vibrant residential-commercial hub, resplendent with local art projects. With such close communication channels, there is a feeling of confidence throughout the project. A confidence that we can count on our fellow contributors – a confidence that grows from strong levels of understanding.

Such projects have the power to improve our quality of life in many different areas. By installing air quality sensors we can help improve our environment. Smart meters will help citizens to minimise their energy consumption and therefore save money. Movement sensors will contribute to improving traffic flow and harmonise coexistence among diverse vehicle types.

At three levels (People, Place and Platform) the project is revolutionising the way we manage our cities. All of these areas are important; at the human level the project consults with citizens to understand their needs and expectations, Place encompasses infrastructural aspects of the project (smart street lighting, eMobility etc) and Platform allows all that data to be ingested and analysed via the Urban Sharing Platform.  

Being part of this venture has been an excellent experience for Concirrus and we are excited about contributing our knowledge and expertise to help provide better lives for London’s citizens. In short, we are proud to be contributing towards another real and meaningful example of the internet of things.


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