Cities are open spaces, where people come to live, explore and exchange ideas. The natural home of innovation, nothing about cities should be locked in. But some infrastructure systems can do just that, shutting down options instead of opening up choices. Schréder and Schréder Hyperion, our Smart City Centre of Excellence are dedicated to building interoperability into everything we do - so cities can grow without limits.
Put simply, interoperability means ensuring that different systems can talk to each other and work together. If you take a photo on your phone, you expect to be able to see and edit it on your PC, tablet, friend’s phones and Smart TV. It’s long been at the heart of innovative tech policy: earlier this year, the European Commission unveiled its new digital package for a digital transformation in Europe, which includes interoperability as one of the key aspects.
“Interoperability has its place also in the new European data strategy, as it is essential for making maximum use of data,” the Commission notes, with a particular emphasis on public services.
Speaking a Universal Language
Schréder is a founding member of the Zhaga Consortium, which was set up to enable interchangeability between luminaires made by different manufacturers. Last year, the consortium united with the Digital Illumination Interface Alliance (DiiA), to standardise the interface between outdoor LED luminaires and communication nodes.
They introduced a new Zhaga-D4i certification program to ensure plug-and-play interoperability. That means urban planners, councils and cities can buy luminaires, fittings, control nodes and systems from any of our members - and they’ll all work together. Schréder has around a dozen Zhaga certified products and is developing more.
Now to take that a step further, Schreder is deploying uCIFI (a new smart city standard data language) on its fourth generation of luminaire controller hardware. The uCIFI data-model is based fully on D4i but goes a whole lot further to include all smart city applications. What does this mean? It means that all smart city applications will be based on the same data model, or in other words, will speak the same language and so will be able to more easily interact with each other. Once again this will break down an important barrier to the deployment of smart city projects to make solutions more open and flexible to interact with each other.
Open, interoperable and scalable lighting networks can play a key role in building a smart city. By deploying connected control nodes on these networks - which offer much more than just light - cities can open up opportunities to deliver social, environmental and economic advantages for communities and strong operational and financial benefits for themselves.
Bad Hersfeld, Great Lighting
Bad Hersfeld is a charming spa town in the centre of Germany. Every summer it welcomes more than 100,000 visitors to the Bad Hersfelder Festspiele, an open-air performing arts festival. This takes place in the Stiftsruine, some imposing Romanesque ruins with a retractable roof, so the show can go on, whatever the weather.
The local council recently redeveloped the area around the monastery ruins, upgrading electricity, water and waste infrastructure to accommodate the festival and various seasonal markets. They also decided to replace the lighting as they had received complaints that the area was poorly lit.
With sustainability at the heart of all the councils’ initiatives, they wanted a smart lighting system that would help to highlight its heritage when visitor numbers surge - while saving energy when not in use. It was critical that the control system be open and interoperable to integrate with other platforms - so they opted for a mixture of Shuffle columns, Zylindo lanterns and Millenium bollards, fitted with detection sensors, and controlled by the Owlet IoT system.
Free WiFi is available for everyone through the Shuffle columns, so they don’t need to worry about using too much data - a real advantage for tourists. The cameras enhance the sense of safety and security. And loudspeakers are ideal during the festival season and Christmas market, when they broadcast music to create an immersive visitor experience. The city has total flexibility about who provides these services, thanks to the future-proof nature of the infrastructure.
Living on the Edge
In recent years, we’ve all become familiar with the cloud, and the benefits it can bring in terms of data management. But for some services, such as self-driving cars, even the split second it takes to send data to the cloud can slow things down too much. For other services, citizens or councils may just prefer to keep their data local. The basketball court in Antwerp’s Slimme Zone, processes data locally, so information from sensors stays where it’s relevant and useful.
These are both cases where edge computing helps. This is where data is processed closer to the 'edge' of the network - where the luminaire, post or sensor is. This means that in time-critical situations, information can be processed where it's required, rather than having to bounce information to and from a server that could be located hundreds of miles away.
Schréder systems make sure this vital information exchange also happens on the edge, not just in the cloud or on your City Management Platform. As our CIO, Nicolas Keutgen puts it,
We have developed a philosophy that focuses on the cities and the citizens, understanding local needs and identity.
Build on What You Have
Lighting points are the perfect foundation for Smart City Infrastructure. They’re already there, enable cities to monetize existing infrastructure, and don’t require a huge change in strategy to roll out a wealth of new services. The Shuffle column, for example, can accommodate a vast range of units, from colour-changing light rings to aid zoning, to WiFi nodes - from a variety of manufacturers. That’s what being interoperable means.
As lighting merges with software systems to create a truly smart city, why not conclude with some thoughts on interoperability from the tech world, which is becoming increasingly merged with our own? “Open software interfaces have been an integral part of the innovation economy, Kent Walker, Google’s Senior Vice President of Global Affairs wrote on the company’s blog in August. “They enable the interoperability that has always let software developers build on each other’s work.” That’s what Schréder is working on for lighting, and beyond, as well.
Passionate about building a sustainable future, Nicholas joined Schréder Hyperion, our Smart City Centre of Excellence, when it opened in 2019 in Lisbon. He is focusing on developing outdoor lighting control system offering to help cities build FutureProof lighting systems for smart city projects. Today he chairs the UCIFI marketing workgroup aimed at supporting and growing the UCIFI alliance that is intent on breaking down barriers to make smart city technologies more open. Nicholas studied Civil Engineering at Imperial College London, did an Erasmus in France and is now based in Portugal.
Connect with Nicholas on LinkedIn.