Managed service provider Pinacl Solutions has announced it is deploying a LoRaWAN-based IoT network across the Welsh city of Newport.
Once in place, this network will support several proof of concept (POC) ‘smart solutions’ for Newport City Council. It will also support a ‘living lab’ environment, with academics and companies being invited to trial new smart city products and services in a real-life urban environment.
The IoT network will sit alongside an existing dark fibre network already deployed by Pinacl throughout Newport and connecting back to Europe’s largest data centre, also based in the city, and opened in 2010 by Next Generation Data on the site of a former LG Electronics semiconductor plant.
Pinacl has selected Stream Technologies and its IoT-X platform to monitor and manage the new IoT network and its associated connected devices.
LoRoWAN was chosen for this project because of its long-range comms capabilities and for long-range battery life, Alasdair Rettie, technical director at Pinacl Solutions, told Internet of Business.
“We can cover a whole city with LoRoWAN. In an urban environment, we can get a range of 2km to 3km for devices. On the edge of a city, or out in the countryside, we can probably get ranges of up to 10km.”
“When you marry that with the long battery life you get, that’s potentially very exciting,” he continued. “We’ve worked on beacon projects in the past, and seen how you might expect to change batteries there every six months to one year.
“With LoRoWAN devices, depending on what they’re doing, you can get up to five to ten years’ battery life. You can deploy a sensor, maybe in a remote location, and you don’t have to go back and maintain it. It will keep sending you data back over that long period.”
LoRaWAN also offers great capacity, supporting tens of thousands of devices on a single network, he added. The Semtech devices that Pinacl is deploying on its Newport IoT network are very cost-efficient to purchase, he added, and also offer low running costs, because of their minimal power requirements.
So what kinds of POCs does Pinacl have in mind for its new IoT network? According to Rettie, they focus on four key areas of need, specific in some ways to Newport, but also applicable to many other cities and towns.
The first is in the area of air quality measurement. The M4 motorway runs right alongside Newport and with a proposed M4 relief road in the offing for the area, air quality is primary concern for the council. “By deploying LoRoWAN-enabled air quality sensors at specific points in the city, and collecting their measurements, we can provide a dashboard that allows the council to get a better feel for air quality and, if they take actions to tackle it, be able to measure them to see if they’re working,” said Rettie. The council will also be able to see the impact of large construction projects (such as work on the M4 relief road) and ensure that contractors are sticking to rules on pollution.
The second POC is in the area of flood monitoring. As its name suggests, Newport is a port city, located on the River Usk, close to where it joins the Severn Estuary. There are also large wetlands in the city’s south-east. As a result, said Rettie, it’s important to monitor levels not only in the Usk but also in culverts and reens, by measuring water-depth and, over time, using that information to predict flooding.
The third POC focuses on waste management. Specifically, Pinacl will be helping the council with waste management and, more specifically, waste from businesses. “We’re focusing on helping them identify which bins the council is responsible for emptying, so they can optimise collection, and which bins are emptied by third-party waste management companies,” said Rettie.
The final POC focuses on smart lighting. Instead of switching off every second light, as many councils do, and which often raises public concern over safety, Newport City Council will be able to control lights more efficiently, dimming them where natural light conditions make that possible. It will also assist in maintenance, alerting council staff to faulty streetlights.
“These are by no means the only POCs we’re interested in. This is just a start,” Rettie stressed. Other potential areas of interest include smart port applications, smart agriculture app for use in the countryside surrounding Newport, and wellbeing applications for senior residents, he said.
“By deploying an IoT network that brings together council departments, we believe we can help the council make significant savings on infrastructure projects, by having access a common IoT network. In time, we hope to see the development of joint solutions and services between council departments, and between the council and private-sector organizations within the city, all using the same platform because it provides better economies of scale.”
Newport’s ‘living IoT lab’
The ‘living lab’ aspect of this project is scheduled to go live this summer. Pinacl is inviting interested parties – such as manufacturers, academics and R&D institutions – to work with it to trial and, hopefully, fast-track the development of new smart city services.
Between now and then, there’s more work to do. But at this stage, Pinacl has already identified locations within Newport for the initial gateway deployment, which will cover the “majority” of the city, Rettie said, and the IoT platform from Stream Technology is already in place.
“We’re looking for the network to be up and running this Spring, with the four POCs then operational. We’ve already deployed some sensors relating to those POCs. We’ve got clear plans in place and clear schedules to stick to,” he concluded.