In January 2019 £22.9m of funding was announced by the Department for Transport for research into technology that could improve roads across the UK in the near future. This £22.9 million has been divided between several local authorities, along with their partners, who will make up The Live Lab Projects.

Right here in the East of England Suffolk County Council have been allocated £4.41 million of the fund to adapt lighting columns to make them suitable for use as charging points for electric cars, or Wi-Fi hubs. Among partners, such as the University of Suffolk and British Telcom (BT), are Cleantech East Leadership Group member, enLight. enLight, who won the award for Excellence in Digtal Creative and ICT at this year’s South Norfolk business awards, use the Internet of Things (IoT) approach to turn lighting infrastructure into a low energy and low maintenance asset.

This technology can currently cut costs and energy consumption of traditional street lighting by 50%. The council have also said they will have the opportunity to trial road sensors. While we do not yet know what these sensors will be monitoring it is anticipated it could be anything from air quality to road surface temperature. Suffolk Highways have also announced that this project will include the rollout of 5G across major road networks in the county.

Read more below on the other projects contributing to the Live Lab

Buckinghamshire:

In Buckinghamshire funding has been allocated for the development of plastic columns, made out of recycled material, that will be used to mount lighting sensors and 5G antenna to collect data across the county network. Also, at this Live Lab, they will be testing the collection of kinetic energy from carriageways to harvest energy in roadside battery units.

Bedfordshire:

Central Bedfordshire will be pioneering the way of solar power build into footways and a ‘Power Road’ using geothermal energy to de-ice surfaces such as car parks and bus stations when the weather turns. Pipes will be installed under teh surfaces to carry water, heated by geothermal energy, under the car parks and other areas and ensure any ice melts. This combats the issue of gritters not being able to grit the actual spaces in car parks and only the main thoroughfares.

Staffordshire: 

£3.39m has been allocated to Staffordshire to address the concept of a Smart Highways network extension to local roads. This will be developed and integrated with sensor and control technologies to feedback to a local transport hub. The University of Keele will be heavily involved with this Live Lab attesting Smart Infrastructure in rural and small community roads.

Reading:

In Reading existing infrastructure will be upgraded to enable smart communication technology. In partnership with O2 Telefonica existing data sources from traffic signal detectors will merge with mobile phone data. This will give a multi-modal view of real-time movement across the Themes Valley. This will also link to air quality data aiming to produce a public health exposure model for the rest of the UK.

Solihull and Birmingham:

Finally, in Solihull and Birmingham video analytics are going to be used to monitor vehicle journey times in differing time windows as well as cycle and pedestrian usage of major networks. These video analytics will influence variable0message signs on local roads allowing travellers to make travel decision such as re-routing with more accurate information.

This blog originally appeared on the Cleantech East website.

The Cleantech East network is a sector network designed to provide a platform for the cleantech sector in Norfolk and Suffolk, bringing together businesses, researchers and students to encourage innovation, collaboration and knowledge transfer, facilitating the transition towards a circular economy within the East.

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