London Start Ups Drive For Smart City

In a typical office block, the air conditioning unit consumes the equivalent energy of 500 homes. Left on when it is not needed — or kept running simultaneously with a boiler — the energy it wastes is huge.
Property owners are stuck with big energy bills and grumpy tenants who complain about being either too hot or too cold. They may also soon be slapped with fines since the UK government recently passed a law penalizing both commercial and private landlords if their buildings have poor energy efficiency ratings.

It is no surprise that new developments in London’s Canary Wharf are adding technologies, some developed by start-ups, to make them more energy efficient.

London’s Canary Wharf: developments will be increasingly smart

Some are embedding properties with all kinds of cutting-edge tech — such as power-generating paving tiles that harness footfall; solar units that provide free battery charging for smart devices; emergency buttons; data about local air quality and noise levels — all helping London edge closer to becoming a smart city.

Canary Wharf Group Doing High Profile Work

The Canary Wharf Group has being doing the most high-profile work with start-ups in a program called The Cognicity Challenge, part of a smart city initiative created to retrofit the group’s existing estate and embed innovative technologies in future buildings.

The Cognicity Challenge competition was launched in October 2014 and comprises six accelerator streams: sustainable buildings; integrated transportation; integrated resource management; automated building management; connected home; and virtual design and construction.

The winners of the first two streams were announced in April, when the solar energy start-up PolySolar, and the smart logistics company Voyage Control, won £50,000 each and the opportunity to pilot their technologies at Canary Wharf. Ten other start-ups have also been chosen to demonstrate their solutions.

Among them is Demand Logic, the maker of a cloud-based system that plugs into the building management systems of commercial buildings to detect wasted energy. Using big data analytics from heating and cooling equipment, Demand Logic is able to identify inefficiency in the building, improve maintenance and so save costs.

“Many buildings are being heated and cooled at the same time. It is uncomfortable for the building’s occupants and it wastes energy,” says Sonny Masero, chairman of Demand Logic. “Because we are very granular with our data we are able to pinpoint exactly where things are not working. Not counting maintenance contract savings or reduction of complaints our payback period is 12 months and is often within nine.”

Live Metrics Of Waste Management

Demand Logic’s API, which is still in development, will eventually allow other technologies from the Cognicity program to integrate with its platform, a requirement of the program.

Demand Logic plans to connect to Asset Mapping, another Cognicity start-up, that provides a view of the floor plans of buildings, making it easy to locate heating and cooling equipment located behind walls. It also plans to connect with Future Decisions, which helps buildings calculate their carbon footprints, and with SEaB, which converts waste to energy. “We will be able to show live metrics of their waste management modules and potentially feed in fresh water consumption data into their system,” says Masero. With Stinex, a project management tool being trialed by Canary Wharf, “we would export data to allow for specific actionable measures to save on energy and maintenance,” he says.

“The whole principle of smart cities is that they will only work with an ecosystem,” says Masero.

In June Demand Logic was awarded the Impax Ashden Award for Energy Innovation, an award supported by Citi, the Coutts Foundation and others to champion sustainable energy enterprises. It has installed its system in close to 30 sites around the world, such as towers in San Francisco’s financial district.
One of its largest clients is Land Securities, a commercial property company that is rolling out the system to many of its buildings including One New Change, an office and retail development in London.

To address the future development of the Canary Wharf estate, which will include residential properties for the first time, 12 more start-ups were selected in April as finalists in Cognicity’s third cohort. This group is competing in the Connected Home, and Virtual Design and Constructions streams. The residential property will be complete by 2020 and technology developed by start-ups in the cohort will influence the development.

London Must Improve DIgital Infrastructure

Some of the start-ups’ technology is geared towards making the construction itself more efficient. For example, 3D Repo has developed technology that connects various partners in construction projects by providing an open-source collaborative platform, while CyberCity3D specializes in the production of smart 3D building models.

Other start-ups are focusing on technology for the residential area. Puckily allows users to control Internet of Things devices around the home from a single interface while Current Table integrates solar cell technology into a beautifully designed piece of furniture that converts indoor light into electricity that, via integrated USB ports, can charge mobile devices.

But start-ups can only do so much. If London is to truly become a smart city it will have to improve its digital communications infrastructure, says Gavin Poole, CEO of Here East, the former Press and Broadcast Centers in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, which has been transformed into a development for “makers, builders and creators.”

A recent report by the House of Lords Select Committee on Digital Skills warned that the capital is being held back by cripplingly slow broadband speeds. London is ranked 38th in the top 40 British cities and towns and 26th in a league table of European cities, with speeds one-quarter that of Bucharest and 10 megabits per second (Mbps) slower than the European average.

99% Of Properties To Have Super-Fast Broadband By 2018

The problem is particularly severe in Hackney Wick, where the existing broadband infrastructure is struggling to cope with demand from small and medium-sized businesses. So Here East has turned to Optimity, a 12-year-old Hackney-based Internet service provider.

Beginning this month Optimity is providing broadband speeds of up to 1,000 Mbps in the area, compared with an average speed in London of 25.44 Mbps, via rooftop technology that bypasses the existing cable networks.

Here East is providing space on its rooftop to host the equipment that will connect local businesses.

In addition, local businesses will be able to access the government’s SuperConnected Cities Voucher program, designed to help small and medium-sized businesses overcome the prohibitive cost of upgrading broadband connectivity.

London Mayor Boris Johnson recently announced a commitment to ensure 99% of properties in the capital have super-fast broadband by 2018.

The upgrade can’t come fast enough for Poole. “We are doing really badly with digital connectivity in London and that is a key thing that drives economic growth,” he says. “It is a struggle to get broadband and on mobile coverage. There are huge issues of capacity, with really bad, patchy WiFi. If we want to be a smart city we have to have city-wide WiFi provision — and have 4G and 5G put in as standard across the city. Without that that we are up against it.”

Start-Ups On Trial

London’s Canary Wharf, built in the city’s former docklands area, is trialling a number of innovative start-ups to tackle challenges such as waste management, raising efficiency and improving services.

Start-up Technology 2015 Timing
Voyage Control Loading bay optimization June – September
PolySolar Transparent photovoltaics August
8point3 LED Interactive/connected lighting N/A
BuzzStreets Way-finding app for retail N/A
Pavegen Power-generating paving tiles May
PIE Mapping Safe navigation N/A
SEaB Waste converted to energy September
Stinex Project management tool Autumn
Demand Logic Monitoring of building management system performance to enable real-time response June
Future Decisions Provides building managers with predictive data July
Strawberry Energy Smart street furniture August
Boldmind Surge marketing using digital displays July