DSP Valley member Invest NI showcases the progress and projects making Northern Ireland’s cities smart.
There’s no denying that the events of 2020 sparked a frank discussion on the pros and cons of city-living. But long before COVID19, most of us recognised that our urban environments needed change and fresh life breathed into them, and technology could potentially hold the key. ‘Smart’ solutions, as they have become known, are now being implemented in communities across the world with the goal of improving quality of life.
This smart revolution is already well underway in Northern Ireland, where digital infrastructure has long been a priority. Cities like Belfast are tapping into the nation’s expertise in sectors spanning technology, cyber security, data analytics and advanced manufacturing to unlock a diverse range of technology-based initiatives to deliver economic, social, and environmental benefits for citizens.
The city was one of the first in the UK to be selected for BT’s 5G network roll-out and, as part of its ambition to become a Smart Port, Belfast Harbour has partnered with BT to trial 5G maritime innovations.
Supporting the pioneers
Over the past decade, Northern Ireland has carved out a niche for itself as a fast-growing and vibrant technology hub.
With more than 1,200 technology companies and 28,000 people employed in Northern Ireland’s ICT sector alone, we are a hotbed for talent across technology and data science industries. This, combined with our academic leadership in cyber security research, makes Northern Ireland ideally placed to lead the charge as the world looks toward smart cities opportunities.
Cutting-edge smart solutions are being developed and implemented across Northern Ireland today, bolstered by initiatives like the Northern Ireland Internet of Things Network (NI-IoT). Led by Ulster University, a free-to-use network that helps businesses develop IoT solutions with wide geographic ranges while using minimal energy and which is now supporting the nation’s many burgeoning smart city opportunities.
One business to benefit from the IoT infrastructure in Northern Ireland is See.Sense. The team develops smart cycling solutions that are revolutionising the experiences of cyclists in Northern Ireland today.
See.Sense uses intelligent bike lights and GPS bike trackers, powered by sensor technology and AI, to improve the safety and experience of cyclists, while also providing cities with data insights to help inform their planning.
Beyond cycling, the electric vehicles (EVs) market is also being rebooted with smart solutions to help make cities more accessible and ultimately, more sustainable. Just last month, the contractor Triex EV installed the first ‘pay-as-you-charge’ electric vehicle charging point for residential apartments in Coleraine.
The business case for smart cities
Smart technology is not only transforming life for Northern Ireland’s city dwellers, it has also opened an exciting and fast-growing market for smart city solutions, with boundless opportunities for collaboration between industry and academia.
Two of our world-renowned universities, Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University, offer access to eight clusters of world-class AI research in core data science, cyber security, hardware, internet of things, medicine, robotics, economy, and multimedia analytics.
The access Northern Ireland offers to some of the brightest minds in R&D has encouraged a diverse cluster of smart city companies to set up operations here.
ANGOKA is one business that was attracted by Northern Ireland’s R&D credentials. The team at ANGOKA protects the machine-to-machine communication that enables smart city initiatives to run. ANGOKA works behind the scenes to safeguard everything from the personal data stored in smart home devices to the communication channels between drones.
Within Belfast’s technology cluster, you can also find Anaeko, a hybrid cloud integrator that helps organisations adopt cloud computing. Founded in 2004, the company is going from strength-to-strength and has helped integrate data and analytics solutions in a diverse range of sectors including utilities.
Another technology innovator focused on improving efficiency is Kinsetsu, which provides organisations with intelligent tracking solutions that automate and optimise their tasks and services. For instance, its product HomeHug helps elderly people live independently at home for longer by providing their loved ones with data about the home environment including temperature and movement.
It’s an exciting time for Northern Ireland. The nation has carved out a niche for itself as an incubator for smart city companies and we’re committed to staying at the top of our game. And as the world prepares for a number of significant changes that lie on the horizon, from the green economy to the widespread adoption of 5G and the advent of autonomous vehicles, Northern Ireland is well-equipped to drive positive change.