Next-gen street lights will transform UK cities

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Smart street lights capable of charging electric vehicles and enhancing wireless coverage are slated to grace towns and cities across the UK.

Amidst the surging demand for wireless services, companies are increasingly eyeing the potential of lamp posts, traffic lights, CCTV columns, benches, bins, and bus stops as prime real estate for digital infrastructure installation.

Six diverse areas from across the UK have been selected to receive funding for pioneering the deployment of multi-purpose street columns.

These intelligent columns will house cutting-edge equipment, fostering the expansion of advanced wireless networks – including 5G – and offer free public WiFi. The ultimate goal is to bolster connectivity for citizens navigating town and city centres.

The successful implementation of these pilots will be met with matched funding from the government, resulting in a total investment exceeding £4 million. This fund consists of £1.3 million from the central government while local authorities will inject an additional £2.7 million in a joint effort aimed at delivering enhanced services within local communities.

Pilot installations will be adaptable to perform a multitude of functions: from facilitating electric vehicle charging to monitoring air quality and displaying vital public information. Furthermore, the smart lights will contribute to energy conservation through more efficient street lighting.

The six authorities initially receiving government funding through the Smart Infrastructure Pilots Programme (SIPP) are:

  • Cambridgeshire County Council (£220,000)
  • Tees Valley Combined Authority (£202,500)
  • Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames (£245,700)
  • Westminster City Council (£165,000)
  • Oxfordshire County Council (£250,000)
  • North Ayrshire Council (£242,765)

Through diverse trials across these regions, the objective is to illustrate how state-of-the-art wireless technology can seamlessly integrate into the UK’s infrastructure. This integration will connect public services and businesses in novel ways, fully harnessing the potential of 5G and advanced connectivity.

Julian David, CEO of techUK, highlighted the need for greater use of advanced connectivity:

“Today’s announcement is a welcome step from the UK government in putting wireless connectivity at the heart of local infrastructure deployment. We must empower more local authorities so that they can foster the greater use of advanced connectivity in their areas, helping unlock growth and innovation across the whole of the UK. 

As techUK set out in our recent Tech Plan, we must give consumers the confidence to switch to electric vehicles to help overcome ‘range anxiety,’ one of the major factors preventing greater uptake of EVs. 

We hope these pilots can help other local areas realise the benefits that smart infrastructure promises.”

The Smart Infrastructure Pilots Programme (SIPP) aligns with the government’s Wireless Infrastructure Strategy, designed to place wireless connectivity at the core of both new and existing infrastructure. This strategic move aims to attract private investment, stimulate innovation, and open new avenues for economic growth.

Sir John Whittingdale, the Minister for Data and Digital Infrastructure, emphasised the pivotal role of wireless connectivity in modern life:

“The way we stay in touch, access information and do business is underpinned by digital connectivity – and a world-class wireless infrastructure will be the foundation for the jobs, skills, and services of the future.

We want to ensure that towns and cities across the UK are right at the forefront of this connectivity revolution, ready to seize the opportunities it will bring for local communities, which is exactly what these pilots are about.

They will help demonstrate how advanced wireless technology can enable areas to innovate and deliver better public services, from rolling out electric vehicle chargers to boosting business growth and helping keep our streets safe.”

Commencing in October 2023 and running until 31 March 2025, these pilot programs herald a new era of smart, connected cities in the UK.

See also: Beecham: LoRaWAN surpasses rivals in IoT connectivity

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