Smart City Parking System

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- Philip Handley, Smart DCC Ltd.

The Challenge

Finding a parking space in a busy city can be frustrating. It is also a leading contributor to traffic congestion and air pollution within urban environments.

Gorizont Telecom approached Plextek to deliver the key enabling technologies for a system to detect occupancy in on-street parking spaces. This real-time data could notify drivers of the available slots to enable smarter parking and alleviate congestion.

This required a highly accurate in-road parking sensor, citywide radio coverage and a secure back-end server with ultra-high availability.

The solution would be implemented in Moscow, Russia and due to the winter weather, the entire project had to be compressed into six months, from initial research through to city-wide deployment. As a result, our sensors would have to cope with harsh temperatures and road conditions.

The Approach

After investigating a number of sensing methods, a magnetometer was selected as the primary sensor. Because neighbouring vehicles, passing vehicles or parallel-parked vehicles can produce false results, we developed signal processing algorithms, threshold manipulation and self-calibration programs to achieve the false trigger rate specified by the client.

The sensors had no external power supply, so they were designed to operate on a low cost internal battery with a five-year lifespan. The radio communications design was a challenge as the top of the sensor had to be flush with the road surface requiring a unique antenna created to fit around other components.

Plextek was also responsible for the design of the base station infrastructure and server that gathered the sensor data and distributed it to user facing Apps and signage.

The Outcome

The whole system was delivered and installed just before the winter freeze, allowing Gorizont Telecom to complete all acceptance criteria.

The radio design allowed a relatively sparse network of base stations to be used to save cost and the straightforward sensor deployment and calibration procedure allowed 11,000 in-road parking sensors to be deployed in two just weeks.

The technology has been successfully re-deployed in other Russian cities, including St. Petersberg.

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Smart Utility Meters

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- Philip Handley, Smart DCC Ltd.

The Challenge

Reporting usage statistics for billing is just the tip of the iceberg. Smart Meters provide communications between individual properties and the nationwide utility networks – facilitating a broad range of functionalities.

Smart DCC Ltd’s (The Data Communications Company) aim was to provide a Smart Meter communications infrastructure with reliable nationwide coverage.

The second generation Smart Meters operate over two radio systems, a cellular system covering the south and centre of the UK and a UHF band radio system in the north.

Achieving the right coverage requires meeting challenging RF emission specifications set out by the Smart Meter suppliers. To tackle this issue, Plextek were contracted to independently assess the requirements, the radio link budget and the performance of different Smart Meters to help ensure correct system operation.

The Approach

Plextek designed some of the very first Smart Meter radio deployments in the US, providing radio communications with reliable coverage in the licence-free bands. This expertise left us well placed to act as an independent technical reviewer for DCC.

A key output of our review was that measuring low-level emissions is close to the limits of what is possible with typical RF test configurations.

Plextek created a comprehensive test specification and established a reliable independent test facility so that the Smart Meter suppliers could record repeatable results against a common test regimen. The specification and testing process are subject to review by a working group comprising Smart Meter manufacturers, DCC and BEIS.

The Outcome

Armed with Plextek’s measurement data, the Smart Meter manufacturers have the information needed to adjust their designs to meet the noise emission limits and demonstrate compliance with the system requirements.

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Smart City Street lighting Infrastructure

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- Philip Handley, Smart DCC Ltd.

The Challenge

The monitoring and control of street lights has become the backbone of global Smart Cities – initially driven by the need to save energy and reduce costs, but rapidly becoming the ubiquitous hub through which all manner of urban data feeds are collated.

Telensa’s PLANet is a world leading lighting control system, deployed on 1.5 million lights around the world and required our expertise to help further develop the technology.

The challenge was to deliver a license free radio system to allow communication between hundreds of thousands of nodes over citywide areas, all with minimal running costs.

A range of required extra features, from meeting stringent metering specifications to global approvals and extended product lifespans, made this an exciting Internet of Things (IoT) design brief.

The Approach

Plextek created a custom Ultra Narrow Band (UNB) radio protocol, capable of ranges over 16km with a single base station about to connect to up to 5000 sensor nodes.

The monitoring and control involved sensing the voltage and current in the lamp unit and deriving the power consumption and the power factor – power factor is important as it indicates the “health” of the lamp; a falling lamp will have a high power factor. This information is transmitted to the base station that then sends commands to the street lights to either switch or dim.

With exposed hardware on top of the street light column, a strict environmental specification was called for with respect to temperature range, water tightness and resistance to deterioration of the plastic sensor housing caused by sunlight.

The Outcome

Our UNB Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) technology has been tried and tested in live global deployments for over a decade now, successfully helping Telensa build their position as a Smart City Market Leader.

Acting as Telensa’s design authority, Plextek continue to support the technology through adding new features and product variants to meet changing market needs.

Telensa have now taken the lead in providing cities with a range of urban data and sensing solutions, with Plextek providing technical services to facilitate these bold new Smart City products and services.

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Smart Street Lighting

Home » Case Study » Smart Cities

The Challenge

The monitoring and control of street lights has become increasingly common in the UK owing to the move towards electricity metering demanded by new regulation and the rising cost of energy.

A major initiative to replace street lights across the country has presented the opportunity to introduce smarter street lighting and this forms an important part of local authorities’ aims to embrace the environmental “green agenda”.

The Approach

The solution involved sensing the voltage and current in the lamp unit and deriving the power factor. The power factor is important as it indicates the “health” of the lamp; a falling lamp will have a high power factor.

This information is then transmitted to a base station, which sends commands to the streetlights to switch on/off or dim. The base station itself contains sensors, to monitor light levels and the local radio interference environment.

Furthermore, the system described here predicts lamp failure and allows planned preventative maintenance, saving significant costs.

The Outcome

Plextek’s solution allows street lights to be “trimmed and dimmed”, i.e. to be turned on and off accurately depending on the day of the year or to be dimmed depending on ambient light conditions.

The system allows groups of lights to be independently controlled so, for example, lights near a school can be brighter or on for longer to improve road safety. Likewise, lights can be turned on to deter crime or illuminate an incident attended by the emergency services.

Our client for this project is now a UK market leader in street light management with over one million street light units deployed. Local authorities, who have become early adopters, are already showing large energy cost savings.

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Sensor Monitoring of Manhole Infrastructures

Home » Case Study » Smart Cities

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. As luctus nisi viverra libero aliquam, and viverra ante arises. Mauris nec ante vel is posuere.
- Philip Handley, Smart DCC Ltd.

The Challenge

In America’s biggest cities hundreds of service manholes catch fire or explode every year.

Manhole explosions can occur when underground electrical wires are damaged, causing sparks that ignite surrounding gases. This is caused primarily by bad weather and flooding interacting with aging power infrastructures.

To protect the people from these risks, our client wanted a system that could detect and transmit early warnings about sites before reaching critical state so preventative action could be taken.

The Approach

Plextek supported the design and manufacturing of a sensor array capable of operating in this harsh environment.

This included a novel power harvesting input to extend the sensor lifespan using locally available “free” energy sources.

To enable the client to quickly deploy the product into the market, we worked to a reduced timescale in delivering a fully functioning working prototype and software interface.

The Outcome

Our solution utilises a range of environmental sensors to detect and monitor the conditions of infrastructural systems so maintenance can be carried out.

The system prevents and mitigates the risk of gas explosions, stray voltage, flooding and other breaches of safety, environmental and quality control regulation.

Positively received by our client, Plextek are now working with them to refine the current design for high volume production.

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