In 2017, The Wall Street Journal painted a picture of a world where data tracked information and fed it back to businesses and government alike. It was deemed the beginning of a transformation that would change the way cities worked. As writer Michael Totty explained: “Cities have a way to go before they can be considered geniuses. But they’re getting smart pretty fast.” The aim behind creating such tech enabled spaces was to spot potential problems within cities, solve them and in the process make them more efficient and sustainable. Parking sensors now reveal when spaces are available, there are apps to ensure things like air quality, roads generate electricity from moving cars and, specifically in London, a project is underway to replace trains on the Circle line with moving walkways. One of the most important issues is wirelessly connecting streetlights, in so doing reducing energy consumption and unlocking a new generation of hyper-local city sensors. It’s a concept that has taken UK SME Telensa from strength to strength, crowning it Smaller Company of the Year winner at the Amazon Growing Business Awards. Talking to Real Business, the company’s CEO, Will Franks, explained that not only was the premise of a smart city a lucrative market, there were numerous benefits to be gained from using technology and information to better lives. “With the market set to have grown to $27.5bn by 2023, smart cities promise to transform urban life in the coming years,” Franks made clear. “From connected devices and smart buildings to new management systems for water, food, waste, energy and transportation, the smart city will create an abundance of efficiencies that will benefit not only local environment, but also improve citizen’s quality of life.” More importantly, the world is converting to LED streetlights and it proves “the ideal moment to add Telensa connectivity for control and smart city sensors,” he said. “That’s not to say we went without hardship. Our challenge as a growing SME has been to scale our international business to meet that rising pace of LED conversions and smart city projects.” The company has grown to become the global market share leader in connected streetlights, ahead of giants like GE and Philips, with a footprint of 1.5 million lights. “This now includes ten per cent of the UK’s streetlights, and the world’s largest connected street lighting deployment of 200,000+ lights in the US state of Georgia,” Franks said of the company’s growth. “It is reflected in Telensa’s revenues, which have tripled in the past two years. Telensa exports 45 per cent of its products, mainly to North America, Asia Pacific and the Middle East. All design and development takes place at Telensa’s Cambridge HQ and all products are manufactured with Sony UK Tech in South Wales. “In large part, our growth comes down to consistently winning major contracts around the globe. The company has shown sustained product innovation, allowing it to significantly disrupt the street lighting industry. Its technology is proven at massive scale and its success is based on a compelling business case for municipalities – very different to that of the typical smart city infrastructure vendor, which sells sensor and network components based on features and price.” According to Franks, Telensa offers savings of up to 30 per cent in energy use through adaptive dimming programs, and savings of up to 50 per cent in maintenance costs through automatic fault reporting and diagnosis. These benefits alone pay for the Telensa streetlight controls, dedicated network that connects them, and cloud application that is used to control them. “This provides an end-to-end solution with an assured ROI,” he added. Of course, the company plans to keep its technology on everyone’s lips this year as well. In fact, 2018 will see Telensa deploy more technology in major cities around the world. Franks suggested big things would specifically happen in the US and New Zealand. “We will also be unveiling a range of lighting-centric smart city applications that utilize our wireless networks to bring benefits to citizens and cities,” he said.
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