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5 February, 2019 - 10:15 By Tony Quested

Microsoft powers Smart City rollout in Cambridge

Smart city technology pioneer Telensa and Microsoft Azure have joined forces to put Cambridge in the vanguard of a new Urban Data Project for the UK.

Cambridge is the first partner city for the Telensa-Microsoft rollout. Telensa says the project creates a trust infrastructure that enables cities to collect, protect and use urban data such as air quality, traffic and noise levels for the benefit of citizens.

Following intensive product development during 2018, the first deployment is scheduled to take place in Cambridge in March.

Urban data is the mosaic of street-by-street, minute-by-minute information that makes up a city’s digital twin. It includes mapping how people use the city, the mix of traffic on the roads, the hyper-local air quality and noise levels. 

This data is incredibly valuable for designing better city infrastructure, delivering more efficient city services and making everything more transparent to empower citizens. It is also potentially valuable to industries such as retail, real estate and insurance.

The use of urban data has been limited by two barriers. The first is the cost of single-purpose sensors, and the related cost of moving video data to the cloud. 

The second has been one of trust – how can a city’s chief data officer apply best-practice policies to the data and provide transparency to citizens on how that data is protected and used?

There are two key technology elements to the Urban Data Project. Data is collected by Telensa Multi-Sensor Pods installed on streetlight poles, with sensors including video and radar feeding into a powerful edge compute platform. The pods run on Microsoft Azure IoT Edge and feature real-time AI and machine learning to extract insights from the raw data.

Data from the pods is combined with other city data in the City Data Guardian. This is the trust platform, built on Microsoft Azure, that enables cities to apply privacy policies, comply with data regulations, and make data available to improve services and drive future city revenues.

Claire Ruskin, executive board member for the Greater Cambridge Partnership and CEO of Cambridge Network, said: “Cambridge has pioneered a number of smart technologies, collaborating between the city’s world-class academic and commercial R & D organisations and the local authorities. 

“The Greater Cambridge Partnership has funded ‘Smart Cambridge’ to see how data supports activities that help to make Greater Cambridge even better to live and work in.

“The Urban Data Project is part of this innovative approach, helping to create a comprehensive ‘digital twin’, and providing the tools to use the data responsibly with policies that are transparent to our residents.

“Telensa is a world-class company based in Cambridge and we are very pleased to be able to assess the real use of IoT technology.”

Will Franks, CEO of Telensa, added: “We’ve been busy working with cities for the past 10 years, making millions of streetlights smart and turning light poles into sensor hubs. 

“But for us it was always about data, and finding an economic way for cities to take control of their urban data assets. We’re delighted to be working with the vision of Smart Cambridge, the innovation of Microsoft IoT and the power and reach of the Microsoft Azure family to make it happen.”

And Bert Van Hoof, partner group program manager for Azure IoT at Microsoft, said: “Microsoft is committed to supporting cities achieve their goals of sustainability, resiliency, and inclusivity through digital transformation – powered by IoT, cloud, AI and Edge technologies.

“With a shared value of providing infrastructure built on trust, that enables cities to take control of their data strategy, working with Telensa on the Urban Data Project was a natural fit.”

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