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London joins EU Smart City initiative

William Payne
January 20th 2016
 
London, the largest city in Europe, has joined a new European Union smart cities programme that will see the UK capital trying out a range of pioneering connected technologies.

South east London borough Greenwich will be the London testbed in the EU Smart Cities and Communities Lighthouse programme, part of a €25 million project to demonstrate how new technologies can assist urban growth and improve the lives of residents.

Some of the ideas being trialled will include: using the River Thames to heat homes, testing electric bikes and trialling state-of-the-art smart parking bays.

Three hundred smart parking bays will be trialled, to determine how they can optimise parking spaces and help drivers find a space quickly and conveniently.

A sharing scheme for electric bikes will be piloted with the aim of seeing if these support a shift from private cars. At the same time, electric vehicles will be piloted for local deliveries and car sharing.

In one of the more ambitious schemes, the River Thames will be harnessed as a renewable energy source to provide affordable heat to local homes. A heat pump will be used to increase the water temperature before being piped through a heat network for space heating and domestic hot water use in local homes. The aim is to improve air quality by avoiding the need to use boilers and provide lower energy bills for residents.

Another renewable energy programme will pilot solar panel installations on homes to provide green energy and improve energy efficiency. The supply and demand of energy will be locally managed by energy partners involved in the programme via state-of-the-art digital technology that will also reduce energy bills and carbon emissions.

Similar projects will be put to the test in the cities of Milan, Lisbon, Warsaw, Bordeaux and Burgas and could eventually be rolled-out across Europe. 

Greenwich is already the focus of other connected city initiatives, linked to the Greenwich Smart City Strategy publishes last year, including the introduction of driverless cars later this year as part of a national pilot in the UK.

The project will also develop a new model of sharing data across cities to make the best use of the very large amounts of information now available that can be used to change the way cities, their communities and services work. The aim is to deliver a common data sharing platform that can be used by all the programme cities and beyond.

The London partnership to guide this programme includes centres of expertise like the Future Cities Catapult and Imperial College, city network experts like Eurocities, as well as Siemens and urban environment engineers, designers, academics and business professionals. Since March 2013, the Smart London Board has worked to help London to integrate opportunities from new digital technologies into the fabric of the city.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson MP said: “London is growing at a record rate and to support the city’s future growth, we need to harness our incredible technical prowess and look to what new approaches and technological innovation can bring. By leading this ground-breaking international project we will be able to share ideas with our European counterparts as we work to create a city that is fit for the future and an even greater place to live, work and visit.” 

Paul Brodrick, Head of Connected Communities, Siemens Energy Management, said: “We believe that by investing in technology, with a focus on renewable and electrification London has the potential to be a global beacon for smart technology and sustainability. This programme will help make that possibility a reality. What is really exciting is the long term potential of this project. The data sharing between European cities and opportunities to develop a cities focused R&D pipeline in London could help keep the UK be at the cutting edge future city technologies.”

The programme will also exploit the power of London as a financial capital to develop business models and raise substantial smart city investment funds.

Last year, the Mayor published his London Infrastructure Plan 2050 - the first attempt to set out the full range of infrastructure requirements for the capital over the next half century. This plan considered how data and smart technology could be embraced to influence the future of London.  Last year, the Mayor also upgraded the capital’s data-sharing platform, the London Datastore, by adding reams of new city data and making it easier for it to be used to make the capital an even better place to live, work and visit. The Datastore has led to the creation of more than 200 apps, such as the Citymapper travel app, which has now been exported to some of the biggest cities in the world.