Our world’s cities are facing overcrowding issues. Many are having to find new and innovative ways to solve problems such as traffic congestion and pollution, with resources such as water, energy, and housing all feeling the strain.

With populations expected to grow to more than six billion by 2050, many local authorities are looking for ways to make their cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

Could IoT and the development of smarter cities be the answer to meeting your sustainable development goals? Providing greater connectivity to the environments we live and work in, smart city tech can provide a platform for monitoring resource use and drive down unnecessary costs. So, what can smart cities do for your sustainability goals? Here our experts look at what solutions are available and how it can dramatically improve your sustainability measures.


In January 2018, the World Economic Forum (WEF) published its Internet of Things Guidelines for Sustainability. After exploring 643 applications of IoT technology, the WEF found that 84 percent were addressing, or could potentially address the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.


Reduce energy costs, increase road safety and promote cycling to drive health benefits

Smart street lights

It is clear the introduction of LED street lighting has helped reduce many local authorities’ energy bills by anything from 30-70%.  Reducing spend through energy savings is important, but connected streetlights take it to the next level. Smart lighting networks can be harnessed to cheaply deploy IoT devices beyond lighting.

Sensors can monitor the flow of vehicles and generate information to dynamically adjust lighting levels based on road usage. Increased dimming generates further energy savings while creating a safe environment for road users. Traffic sensors cheaply connected via smart lighting networks are an example of how street lights can provide the backbone to implement smart city applications.

Interested to learn more? Then contact Urban Control to find out more about our Traffic Management Services and other smart city solutions in the UrbanSense portfolio.

Improve air quality around key areas such as schools, hospitals, and inner-city routes

Air quality sensors

Want to know where pollution is at its worst in your city? And what is causing it? By deploying air quality sensors, you can. Air quality sensors monitor environments at a localised level. Collected data can provide insight into air quality performance versus government targets such as the Air Quality Index. Air quality information at strategic locations such as busy transport hubs, city centres, and schools, highlights the number of people affected.

This quantifiable data can drive decisions to introduce positive environmental outcomes such as speed limits, pedestrianised areas and investment in green infrastructure. Initiatives required to sustainably manage cities and positively impact billions of lives in urban spaces.

If you would like to discuss how smart city tech can help meet your sustainability targets, contact the team here.


Our smart city solutions:






Managed Services

Our focus is to provide you with a sustainable and resilient smart-city-solution. Our mesh network is an integral part of that promise.

Through our technology partner, Itron, we provide one of the most advanced and reliable IoT networks in the world. This open standards-based, trusted platform achieves a staggering >99.5% reliability and has been proven at scale, securely connecting nearly 200 million critical devices in some of the toughest climates and most diverse topographies on five continents.

Mesh enables coverage with considerably less infrastructure than popular star topology networks while providing a flexible foundation to support future uses cases. Unlike star networks, which require direct connections to each endpoint device, mesh endpoints can communicate with each other. With this unique capability, mesh networks are able to deliver unmatched performance in the most challenging operating environments, including dense urban and remote topographies.

Here’s how:

Our connectivity platform combines long range radios – which offer extremely efficient long range communication – with mesh networking technology – where every device acts as a repeater for every other device.

This means devices can communicate directly with access points over very long distances, and allow messages to ‘hop’ through 15 devices before reaching the Access Point. This ability to see round corners allows the network to get near to 100% coverage in every part of the city, including the hard to reach locations where many sensors might be placed.

While 15 hops is supported we typically design networks to average just 4 ‘hops’ between the sensor and the access point, to ensure there is a huge amount of path redundancy in the event of individual device failure, or localised power outages.

In other words, even if you have multiple nodes knocked out by a power outage, the data will automatically zig-zag between the remaining nodes and still make it through to the access point (assuming the shortest route is less than 15 ‘hops’).

This enables us to exceed 99.5% reliability in terms of communication because of this extensive self-healing capability.

Equally, every node will register with two Access Points. If one fails, the nodes will instantly start using the second.

As new devices are added, the mesh forms new connections, becoming stronger and more resilient with each new connection.

All of this happens automatically without user intervention and ensures that our network is part of a truly flexible, robust and sustainable solution.


Contact us on 0203 437 0777 to see how we can create a secure and future-proof smart city solution for your municipality 

If we want to make intelligent technology a joined-up, accepted, mainstream reality on the ground, perhaps we all need to be asking smarter questions about what is it cities, councils and citizens really want from smart technology?

By Miguel Lira and Amy Barker

Published in the Lighting Journal, April 2018

We all have a responsibility to think creatively about how we use intelligent technology to improve our productivity and contribute to our council’s long-term visions. None of us can expect individually to develop a complete solution. But collectively and collaboratively, we can inspire some powerful thinking and impactful ideas.

It’s been said before, but we need to say it again; it’s time to turn the concept of smart cities on its head and ask the question: ‘what are we really trying to achieve here?’.

Many of us have spent time at smart city exhibitions, trawling the aisles, listening to thought leaders and looking for inspiration. We’ve all attended meetings to discuss how we make our own city or town smarter. But as we are listening, looking and discussing these things, can we be sure we are asking ourselves the right questions and looking in the right places for the answers?

For so many towns and cities, the idea of becoming ‘smart’ is a far-off dream. Budgets have been cut and day to day concerns are far more mundane than the technology elite may suggest. We still have to worry about how to fix the day-burner that was reported a week ago by Mr Brown on Mayville Road. A far cry from the bright lights that a smart city promises.

We all understand the concept of what a central management system (CMS) does and how it can control a network of lights, helping to save energy, money and time. But, with limited budgets and massive growth targets to meet, how do local authorities take advantage of ‘smart-city’ technology in an affordable and realistic way?


It could be argued, that by using the very term ‘smart city’, we are thinking about the application of intelligent technology in a back-to-front manner.

Let’s look at a typical scenario. Most towns have an accident ‘blackspot’. And it would be a surprise if the subject of technology hadn’t been discussed as a possible solution. Or indeed that consideration hadn’t been given to how better lighting control might help. But if we think outside the immediate and obvious issue, we might see that at the heart of the problem is ‘inefficiency’.

It might be that the accidents are occurring because up ahead a set of traffic lights is causing a queue which means drivers have to break suddenly. Or a narrow road runs next to a popular cycle route and drivers become frustrated at having to drive slowly. In fact, at the heart of most troublesome hot-spots, whether it be pollution, flooding, over-crowding – we will find that it is because our towns and cities are not efficient.

And if our towns and cities are not efficient, then Mr and Mrs Marshall may choose the town next door because they know they can get around much easier and faster. If our towns are not efficient, then productivity will be lower and investors will look elsewhere.


So maybe the question is not ‘how do I make my city smarter?’. Or even ‘how do I make it more efficient?’ In fact, the question we all have a duty to ask is ‘how do I help to make my city more competitive, and be a place people choose to live, work and play in?’.

And if we start with that question, we have to think about more than just the remit of street lighting. Implementing CMS across our cities may help keep the lights on at the right time – but if it isn’t forming the foundations for a wider, competitive strategy, then we risk wasting precious budget and not future proofing our investment – and Mr and Mrs Marshall will choose to set up shop somewhere else.

This is a challenge for all of us: engineers, planners and technology providers. We all have a responsibility to think creatively about how we use intelligent technology to improve our productivity and contribute to our council’s long-term visions. None of us can expect individually to develop a complete solution. But collectively and collaboratively, we can inspire some powerful thinking and impactful ideas.

Those with a stake in street lighting arguably have a greater responsibility to ensure we are planning for the future. Given that lighting infrastructure is the ready-made backbone for the implementation of wider benefits such as sensors, cameras and other types of controls, the need to work with different stakeholder groups is vital. Not only does it help create clear purpose and aligned focus, but close collaboration across different areas also provides a platform for innovative thinking.

A practical example might be to consider the opportunities surrounding big property developments. Depending on the impact that the development has on the surrounding area, there may be opportunity to receive funding from the developer to put towards a lighting control system that in turn, will enable a communications network to connect air pollution sensors, waste bin filling rate alerts or monitor the drainage system condition. Of course, these sorts of opportunities will vary council by council. But without opening up the dialogue between departments, we can’t even begin the conversation.

Better collaboration also ensures that the vision for a more competitive and efficient city supports the need for diverse connectivity under one integrated management environment.


The idea of having a single, physical communication network to support all aspects of a highly productive town, is an outdated school of thought. Supporting diverse connectivity however, means supporting multiple networks, subnetworks, connection interfaces, ranges, bandwidths, topologies and so on.

Eventually these will all have to coexist in order for us to truly reap the benefits of smarter living. After all, we no longer purchase a smartphone with only cellular connection. We also require Bluetooth, Wi Fi, NFC. Exactly the same expectation must be applied when considering the hardware and software that is required to achieve the vision for our cities.

Asking some simple questions before deciding on a technology solution can help to future-proof the investment and ensure it is flexible enough to scale up and adapt to future innovations.

For example:

  • Does the product have the physical space to add in new chips or tech in the future?
  • Does the technology have a multi-purpose or function? For example, does the lighting control system not only control lights but also capture and analyse data from other sensors, so the cost can to be spread across all departments that benefit from the system?
  • If it is a physical product, how feature-rich is it? Even if the need or funding is not immediately there for a particular feature, ask if you can purchase products with functionality switched off, and then switch it on in the future. Or is the product’s firmware upgradable remotely to accommodate new features?
  • How compatible are the products with other manufacturers and network providers? For example, can the node talk to multiple networks? If it only needs to talk to one now, how easy is it to upgrade it in the future?

In return, we technology providers, must be considering the longevity of our solutions. We must ensure we are doing all we can to provide options for those with small budgets but have long-term growth ambition. We must be striving to offer this level of flexibility so local authorities can invest with confidence, knowing their solution will grow with them.

The final part of the jigsaw is to consider what happens when we start to reap the benefits of our improving environment. Do we all pat each other on the back and say ‘good job, that new CMS system was implemented perfectly’, and then go back to working in our silos? Let’s hope that doesn’t happen. Because one of the biggest and often most immediate benefits of any intelligent system is the flood of data and information that it brings to our finger tips.

And if our objective is to build a more competitive, more efficient and productive environment for our citizens, then surely the biggest prize is the ability to sustain those advantages through the analysis and interpretation of the data being captured.

In order to achieve this, we must consider how efficiently the data is disseminated to all stakeholders. To keep innovation alive, we must not be precious with the data that is captured or the trends that are identified. It is so easy to assume no one else will benefit from understanding the optimal dimming profiles for our town centres. Or the man-hours we have saved by being able to operate a targeted maintenance programme. Instead we must readily share these learnings with other departments, with the technology provider, with universities and professional bodies so we can obtain the maximum ROI.

It might be unrealistic to ditch the phrase ‘smart city’ when we’ve only just begun to understand it. But let’s make sure that the word ‘smart’ is more about how we, the leaders, manufacturers, planners, engineers, are working together to leverage the benefits that technology brings. If we can do that, then we really can claim to be a truly smart city.


Miguel Lira is innovation and development director and Amy Barker is marketing manager at Urban Control

Image credit: stormotion.io/

We all know that society is getting older – the impending impact of an ageing population has long been discussed and increasingly makes the headlines. From debilitating stress on the NHS to lack of funding for social care; the weight of supporting millions of pensioners lies heavily on the shoulders of the workforce and every government across the western world is met with the task of finding ways to alleviate it.

But delve further into the impact of the post-war baby boom and you uncover other issues which, if ignored, may have an equal impact on the long term future of our constantly developing world. But arguably more important is the fact that if recognised and acted upon, these issues may well provide, in part, a solution.

A perfect example is the subject of ‘innovation’. The Oxford dictionary definition of ‘innovate’ is “to make changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas, or products”. Which is of course is absolutely vital to the growth of smart cities.

In 2016, Andreas Irmen of the University of Luxemburg and Anastasia Litina of the University of Ioannina, published a paper on the relationship between the ageing population and inventive activity.

Cquote1_sh2.svgWhat is the relationship between a population that is ageing and the propensity to engage in inventive activity? The answer to this question matters for at least two reasons. The first is related to economic growth. It is widely recognised that an ageing population poses serious challenges for many important fields of economic policy, including health care, pensions or public debt. Economic growth is often seen as a means to solve, or at least to alleviate these problems. Since innovation and technical change are the main drivers of economic growth it is important to know how inventive activities adjust in ageing societies. The second reason is cultural. It concerns the hypothesis that old societies tend to lose dynamism, are less forward-looking and more reluctant to accept change. Cquote2_sh2.svg

They studied a panel of 33 OECD countries (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) in the period 1960–2012 to find the actual relationship between our ageing population and inventive activity across countries and time. The results showed that the relationship is humped shaped. The increasing part of the hump captures the awareness that an ageing population requires inventive activity to guarantee current and future standards of living. The decreasing part reflects the tendency of ageing societies to lose dynamism and the willingness to take risks.

Looking specifically at the subject of innovation, the graph below (source Harvard Business Review) shows the steep incline of ‘great innovators’ from the age of 20 to 35. An interesting thought at both a macro level and a micro level within our own organisations.


So what does this mean for our smart city adventure? At urbancontrol we strongly believe that true smart city innovation comes from those who deeply understand the environment they are responsible for. That’s our local government, our councillors and of course, the citizens.

So the question is, what should we be doing to ensure the innovators of tomorrow, have a say in the smart city vision of today? If our population is ageing and the research suggests this will lead to a decrease in innovative thinking, then surely we must not only be protecting our innovation budgets but also be actively engaging and seeking input into our strategies from younger generations.


How do we give the innovators of tomorrow a voice today?

It is all too easy for us to strategise amongst ourselves with like-minded and equally experienced colleagues. Much easier than engaging in discussion with those dubbed as ‘millennials’ (a person reaching young adulthood in the early 21st century). They are less eloquent, possibly? More impatient…?  Certainly they have a different outlook on life having grown up with the world ‘on-tap’.  A whole different generation with their own strengths and weaknesses. But ultimately the generation that bears the burden of a pensioner-heavy society and who surely hold many of the answers to securing the future of our most treasured assets such as the NHS.

The rapid development of technology has caused a great division between the immediate post-war generation and the young work force of today. But for those of us born before 1982 (which is the arbitrary date given to divide millennials from the last generation), we must some take responsibility for providing a channel from our junior workforce through to our current leaders and decision makers. And this is a challenge for not just Local Authorities but to every part of the smart city ‘supply chain’.

‘Smart cities’ will happen. It is happening. But the relevance, the creativity and the pace will surely be influenced by how we capture the thoughts, ideas and inspirations of our younger workforce.

Amy Barker – Marketing Manager @ urbancontrol

Before joining urbancontrol, Amy spent 15 years in consumer marketing working with some of the best known retail brands in the UK, including several years at retail technology innovator, Ocado.

Further reading

Download Irmen and  Litina’s paper here > 

Read a succinct write up on their findings in the Harvard Business Review here >

Read an interesting article called ‘Are most CEO’s too old to innovate?’ here >

View a fascinating video on ‘millennials’ in the workplace >


Cllr Stuart Tranter speaks to urbancontrol about his vision for Medway and his views on the unique role that Local Authorities must play in the growth of smart cities across the UK.


  In order to truly take advantage of Smart City technology, it’s my view that it is the responsibility of the Local Authority to have a clear vision for their borough, town or city. We don’t need to have all the answers – indeed it is imperative that we don’t pretend to, and instead we must be consulting with the experts on how we achieve our ambitions. But it is for us, the local government, to ensure that we have a clear vision for the future.

This vision must stem from an understanding of the changes that are going on in the wider environment. We need to be ahead of the curve, doing our very best to see how we can encourage investment and regeneration.

“We must have a clear vision for the future of our towns and cities”

For example, we should be envisaging how people will be traveling in the future. It is a known fact that we need to move away from using fossil fuels – so what effect will that have on future transport infrastructure? Will we still want people to use public transport or will the emphasis shift to something else?

In Medway, we now benefit from the high-speed rail link to London, just 40 minutes away. If we want to encourage people to use it, what are the smart technologies that are going to make that easier for them? For example, when I get off at the station, will I know what’s going on in town right now and how to get there? What will make my life easier?

We know that conventional shopping in town centres will decrease, retail will tend to merge with leisure activities and yet city populations will grow. How will all this shape the way we use and interact with our town centres? We are used to the concept of a smart phone; it is only natural entire cities will follow.

These are the kinds of questions we should be thinking about at a macro level as we plan for a smarter future.

But our vision must also consider how we leverage the strengths of our individual boroughs.

Medway is a unique conurbation, made up of towns that have distinctly different strengths…  and challenges. The best way I can describe it is, it’s a bit like my house. Each room has a different use. They all need to be functional and fit for purpose and, of course, I want all of them to be pleasant places to be.

“Our vision must consider how we leverage the strengths of our individual boroughs.”

I could liken Rochester to my kitchen and dining area – the heart of the house where people meet to share good food, relax and enjoy their surroundings. Strood is a place of working – like my office, it needs to be a comfortable place to be, but has a very specific function. I believe the future of Gillingham could be as a place of sport and recreation – it has huge fields, sports facilities and riverside leisure areas …and it is home to Gillingham Football Club.

But like my house needs a central heating system, Medway needs an overarching Smart City strategy. It should be centrally managed and designed to leverage the strengths of each town in order to improve the lives of those who live there.

And that means understanding the kind of people we are attracting. In Medway, one of our key objectives is to be known as a place of learning. We have four very good universities here already. But we want to become a primary destination for students and put ourselves on the map as an area of academic and creative excellence. And when their education is complete we want them to be employed here, or set up business here.

“Like the separate rooms of my house need a central heating system, Medway needs an overarching Smart City strategy.”

So the sort of questions we must be asking ourselves are; how can we use smart city technology to attract more students and connect them with Medway? How can we enhance the lives of those 10,000+ students already here? How do we make the connection between local employers and the students so that we keep them in Medway?

These are the challenges we need to be putting to the Smart City experts. But we need to know the questions, before we can go looking for answers.

Ultimately, I believe that at the heart of a truly Smart City is a clear understanding of the relationship between the user and the city. We must be continuously analysing that connection – which will be different for every borough. What I do know now though, is that the benefits Smart City technology brings, need to be relevant to my life and to my business as a citizen living and working in Medway. I’m excited about Smart City technology, and the future of Medway.  


Councillor Stuart Tranter represents the ward of Rochester West and is also the Mayor of Medway. He has a strong background in business strategy and marketing.

Having started out as a Telephone Engineer at BT he moved up through the company to eventually assume the role of Head of Service Marketing. In 1994, he set up his own marketing agency and for the past 22 years he has run a successful portfolio of businesses spanning a variety of industries.

Stuart has lived in Medway all of his life.

The team at urbancontrol have diverse backgrounds, but at some point or another we have all worked within the street lighting industry. We got together to discuss one of the subjects we find ourselves being questioned on regularly; the significant role our street lights have to play in the growth of Smart Cities. And we thought we’d share our conclusions with you.


  So what is a Smart City and what on earth has it got to do with street lights?

This is something we get asked quite often, given the nature of our jobs. It is actually a good question and one that we believe has strategic significance in the growth of Smart Cities across the UK.

Before we answered it though,  we took a moment to go back to basics and set the scene.

We all know that ‘Smart Cities’ is one of, if not the, biggest buzz words around right now. But what does it actually mean?

Forgive our unsophisticated sources, but Wikipedia is a great place to go if you want a concise, easy-to-understand explanation for most things.

“A smart city is an urban development vision to integrate multiple information and communication technology (ICT) with Internet of Things (IoT) solutions in a secure fashion to manage a city’s assets”

No doubt in a year’s time, the definition of a Smart City will have evolved further. In fact, the very nature of a Smart City dictates that as end-user needs change, so will the objectives of a Smart City.

But back to the question of what the humble lamp post has got to do with a Smart City. We believe that there are three core reasons why the street light has more than just a lighting role to play in the future of our cities and towns.


1. They are not small

The first point of strategic significance is their height. Lamp posts (or ‘lighting columns’ as those of us in the ‘biz’ like to call them) are tall and therefore they provide an excellent place to position a node or a sensor to collect and transmit Smart City data. Data such as pollution levels, traffic flow, foot fall and so on. Put simply they do a very good job at being an aerial.


2. They exist and don’t move

The second point is that lamp posts don’t tend to move. They are a permanent and common feature throughout the modern city landscape. This, coupled with the fact that they are already in existence, means that they are a ready-made infrastructure that can provide consistent information.


3. Ready-made power bank

The third, and what we considered to be the most useful feature of a street light, is that they have power. All new Smart City technology needs some form of power and our good old friend the street light comes with that, as standard.


So, is the Smart City the future? Yes… without a doubt technology will continue to enhance our lives and infiltrate more and more of our everyday activities. Will the humble lamp post play a part? Yes! And we would go as far as to say that our street lighting network is the ready-made backbone of the Smart City revolution.


Our Marketing Manager, Amy Barker, looks at the future of retail and how the integration of smart technologies will change the way we shop.

A hundred years ago you could walk into a local corner shop and expect a personalised shopping experience. The shopkeeper would greet you by name and knew your shopping list by heart. They would diligently fill up your bag with your favourites and recommend new items that might be of interest.  The weekly shop was a chance to catch up on the local gossip and was one of life’s more pleasurable tasks.

Fast forward 30 years to the 1950s and the rapid transition to the self-service supermarket is largely complete. Through the improvement of transport, communication and other technological developments, lives have sped up 10-fold and shopping is about convenience; a necessary task that retailers seek to make as easy and as quick as possible.

Today, we’ve almost come full circle. Retailers are focused on providing us with personalised experiences from the comfort of our own homes. Previous purchases are remembered, and systems are so intelligent it’s almost like having a personal shopper advising and recommending products. Convenience has been taken to whole new level, leaving our traditional bricks-and-mortar retailers and local councils with the challenge of enticing people in for other reasons than their weekly shop.

So what does this mean for the future of our town centres? Will they continue to shrink in size until it’s nothing but coffee shops and hairdressers? Will independent retailers all but vanish because everything can be done from the comfort of your own home?

If history is anything to go by the answer is a resounding no. Technology will never overtake the need to socialise. It will never remove the need for experiencing the tangible. Instead, as smart technology infiltrates our everyday lives, we are seeing a return to an enhanced mix of leisure and shopping.

Amazon recently revealed plans for a grocery shop without a checkout process. Customers will instead pay for the goods they have selected via an app. Using technology that is found in self-driving cars, the customer’s Amazon account will be charged once they leave the shop. This is the future. Where an online and virtual shopping experience meets a traditional and physical one.

But it won’t just stop there, because when smart technology really takes hold we will be looking at more than just a smart shopping experience, we will be benefiting from smart supply chains too.

Amazon is just experimenting with its own supply chain and ‘shop window’. But we can expect to see the integration of internet shopping with bricks and mortar extending across entire town infrastructures. Already retailers have digital inventory lists. So imagine the consolidation of this information from multiple retailers into one mobile app allowing you to search for an item, find out who is selling it and then pop into town confident you know exactly where it is. Maybe the app can also tell you where the nearest available parking space is and recommend a 2-for-1 offer at a local restaurant.

Town centres must continue to evolve into enjoyable and inspirational places to socialise and shop. Confident in the fact that the heart of our towns and cities will not only survive in a more connected world, but will ultimately thrive.

Further good reading: Harvard Business Review – How technology is transforming retail >

Amy Barker – Marketing Manager @ urbancontrol

Before joining urbancontrol, Amy spent 15 years in consumer marketing working with some of the biggest retail brands in the UK, including several years at retail technology innovator, Ocado.

Ian Hawthorn talks to urbancontrol about one of the biggest challenges Local Authorities face in the roll out of smart technologies across the UK.

Being part of the smart city journey is incredibly exciting. We know that this technology will revolutionise the way we interact with our urban environment and the resulting benefits for those who live, work and play in our cities will be immense. No one knows how or when it is truly going to take hold, but it is clear that we are well on our way to a smarter way of living.

As a local authority, we need to make sure that we are not only facilitating the change but driving it. The success of smart cities is heavily dependent on us understanding the needs of our citizens and joining up the dots that lead to a more efficient and sustainable environment. Of course, the technology innovators have a significant part to play, as do the smart city solution providers. But, when it comes down to ensuring the right solution is successfully implemented – well that’s down to us.

“We know  this technology will revolutionise the way we interact with our urban environment and the benefits will be immense.”

That is an exciting prospect – but also presents its challenges. Success requires a new approach from all of us. Put simply, we need to work better together by breaking down silos and building stronger bridges between organisations and even council departments. The current reality is that daily challenges are often shared, yet seldom solved as one.

For example, our highways department must find common ground with the departments delivering services across a wide range of other areas. Highway design plays an important part in people’s lives – including how other services are delivered. And these other services may know that there is a problem before the highways department does, so having smart channels to communicate this back through the chain is vital to ensure we keep our city moving.

A smart city is much more than just street lighting controls. The very nature of smart technology dictates the need for interdependence across our entire city’s infrastructure. In other words, there are huge benefits in sharing the data from one asset with those who make decisions about another.

“We need to work better together by breaking down silos and building stronger bridges between council departments.”

Promoting a culture of sharing knowledge and data among organisations and departments is vital – even if right now the challenges seem unrelated.

To illustrate this point I like the example set by the healthcare service. The team responsible for the resuscitation of newborn babies at the University Hospital of Wales recognised the similarities between neonatal resuscitations and Formula One pit stops. Both scenarios require a team of people to work seamlessly in a time critical and space-limited environment. By inviting the Williams Formula 1 team to talk about their techniques, the neonatal team could directly apply the learnings to their situation. This open-minded approach resulted in vital changes being made to the way the resuscitation team performed their tasks and ultimately led to life-saving results. An excellent example to illustrate the power of joining up the dots between seemingly unrelated areas and learning from each other.

At a wider level, we can apply the same logic from one council to another. Each with their own, distinct challenges but all with knowledge that can be shared for the benefit of others.

With this in mind, it is worth looking back at some of the previous schemes rolled out across London as there are many learnings we can apply to today’s smart city challenges. Take, for example, the roll out of the London Permit Scheme (LoPS); LoPS is designed to control access to road space on the authority network with all works promoters having to secure a permit for their works. But critically, it was the first permit scheme to be introduced across all London Boroughs and initiated a step-change in council culture by promoting a closer working relationship between all 33 councils.

“We must learn from the past in order to navigate the future”

Its success was largely down to adopting a phased approach, whereby a core group of authorities agreed to participate in the scheme and then invited other councils to learn about the roll out and the associated benefits. Over the course of four years, every London council signed up and thus resulted in a successful initiative that benefits the whole city.

This same principle needs to be applied to the introduction of smart technology. There will always be councils that look to lead and innovate. They must be encouraged to share their findings with others and help to prove that the technology works and the benefits are real.

To bring this piece to a close, I want to touch briefly on the ever-present elephant in the room that laughs whenever we suggest that organisations, departments – and indeed councils – should be working closer together. That elephant is, of course, the ongoing fight for a slice of the budget. This can only be solved through the clear dissemination of vision and strategy throughout the council and being transparent with the budgetary priorities that will enable us to achieve our common goals. Every department and indeed, every council, needs to know the part they play in enabling their city, town or borough to embrace this new, smarter way of living.

Ian Hawthorn is Head of Highways Maintenance and Projects for London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham and Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. With over 25 years in Local Government, Ian is responsible for over 413km of highway, 45,000 items of street furniture and 21,000 street lights, illuminated signs and bollards, including three of the bridges across the River Thames.

“There is no better way to improve the lives of billions of people around the world than to improve the way cities work”  Michael Bloomberg – former Mayor of New York City


A Smart City understands the individual challenges and strengths of any urban environment. It also leverages the benefits of technological advancement to improve the lives of those that live and work there.

It is our belief that there are four key elements  to driving the success of smart cities across the UK:


Our Smart City vision comes from appreciation that personal happiness is at the heart of why we desire smarter living. It’s the understanding of the challenges we face caused by factors such as an ageing infrastructure and  population. It is also the recognition of a city’s unique strengths and its ability to connect all the dots to form a future-proofed smart strategy.


Communication with citizens to understand what will enhance their lives and ultimately make them happier. Communication throughout Local Authorities and breaking down existing departmental silos so resource can be effectively allocated to aid Smart City growth. And finally, constant communication back to the technology innovators to ensure the needs of citizens are being met at every stage.


Without vision, leadership is pointless. But without leadership, smart cities are nothing but a theoretical dream. We need to work with our Local Authorities to ensure they have everything they need to transform the vision of a smarter way of living into reality.


We may be the provider of the technological solution, but we put this last in our list of key Smart City drivers. Simply because the technology already exists; in fact, we provide one of the most advanced solutions out there. But the connecting of the dots is where the real innovation takes place. And that’s why we have adopted a truly human-centric approach to our business.


We support the BSI strategy for Smart Cities and remain confident that this is the best possible solution for all residents of urbanised areas.

At urbancontrol we promote an integrated approach to the adoption of smart city technology; we believe that by joining up the dots across your city’s infrastructure, you will obtain the greatest savings and greatest benefits. Our promise is to provide you with a future-proofed solution that can adapt and evolve alongside your urban environment.

urbanmaster is designed with that approach in mind and is a fully flexible and scalable central management system allowing local authorities and their stakeholders to benefit from some of the most powerful analytical tools on the market.

Our CMS platform is available as a cloud-based product or on your own business’ server. The system provides you with map-based real-time control, automatic massive data collect and aggregation, inventory and asset management, switching and dimming schedulers, calendars, advanced alarming, automatic reporting, data analytics, control centre monitoring and more.

It is a multi-system and multi-application platform that is used by over 500 cities across 15 countries to control, monitor and analyse data such as drainage levels, traffic flow, pollution levels, occupancy (footfall) and more.

By using a city’s street lighting infrastructure to communicate data via nodes attached to the luminaire, urbanmaster allows you to control a portfolio of city-assets. The vast array of data that can be captured and reported means our customers are able to make intelligent decisions about how they manage their asset portfolio, enabling them to save energy, increase safety and reduce their maintenance costs.

With over 500 scalable features, urbanmaster can be adopted by large cities right down to our smallest boroughs. Our team provide full system and on-site training and support. Find out more about our customer support here >

urbanmaster supports both wireless and power line Control Systems and Outdoor Lighting Networks (OLNs) from 40 manufacturers. The platform is TALQ compliant meaning it is compatible with any other solution that is also TALQ compliant. You can read more on our open standards and network here >

Just some of the features available on urbanmaster:

We are continuously developing and improving our system. With an easy to use, intuitive user-interface, urbanmaster is designed to provide you with powerful data at your fingertips.

Should you require a bespoke app then please speak to us.

Equipment Inventory

The Equipment Inventory WebApp enables users to add, edit, commission, remove and display devices on the map. Devices are grouped by geographical groups called geozones. A geozone is a location (latitude and longitude) displayed at a pre-defined zoom level on the screen. Geozones are defined by the end-users. They contain either devices or other geozones, to create a hierarchical view of all your devices/assets, like folders containing files in your computer.

Alarm Manager

The “Alarm Manager” WebApp enables you to create alarm definitions on the urbanmaster CMS. Alarms are defined based on several types of conditions (or “triggers”) to trigger actions such as sending an email with a configurable text. For instance: sending an email to a maintenance team when more than 3 Light Points, which are less than 200 metres apart, have sent a “Lamp Failure” event to the urbanmaster CMS.

Report Manager

The “Report Manager” WebApp enables users to create reports that are automatically computed and sent by the urbanmaster CMS to selected users by email or FTP. These reports can be designed so they are compatible with your standard reporting process.

Data History

The “Data History” WebApp provides access to data values and their timestamp that has been measured by the devices and sent to the urbanmaster CMS. It displays these data in dynamic and interactive graphical charts.

Failure Tracking

The “Failure Tracking” WebApp provides end-users with a map-based view of the status of the devices. It displays:
· The total number of devices with critical failures and warnings for each geozone at a high zoom level
· A non-interactive status view for all the end-devices at intermediate zoom level
· An interactive view of each device at a close zoom level, with detailed history for each device

Real-time Control

The “Real-time Control” WebApp enables users to remotely control and monitor devices in real time, send them commands (e.g. dim to 72%) and read metering data (e.g. current, voltage, power, power factor).

Batch Control

The “Batch Control” WebApp enables users to easily perform real-time control operations on arbitrary groups of devices.

Scheduling Manager

The “Scheduling Manager” WebApp enables users to define control programs and calendars and commission them into the devices managed by the urbanmaster CMS. It allows you to create, edit and delete control programs and calendars with most of the control systems supported by the urbanmaster CMS.