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How Sheffield City Council are integrating Smart City technology

18 March 2020

Following ICE President Paul Sheffield's recent visit to the Yorkshire & Humber region and his reiteration of the need to integrate digital into infrastructure, President’s Future Leader Hayley Jackson reflects on Sheffield City Council's initiative with Smart City Technology.

How Sheffield City Council are integrating Smart City technology
Hayley Jackson talks to us about Smart city bins

Digitisation of processes and sustainable development are two hot topics at the forefront of discussions in how our industry will manage infrastructure in the future.

Sheffield City Council are already trialling innovative solutions in partnership with Amey and Connexin, to provide a range of services more efficiently for the people of Sheffield.

The technology and infrastructure is already here

With ever increasing populations in cities, reduction of traffic congestion, management of spaces, waste disposal and service provision are all critical to keeping a city moving.

Imagine a city that has waste bins and drains that tell you when they’re full and need emptying, grit bins that can do the opposite and trees which tell you when they need watering. Well this technology already exists, and it’s being used in Sheffield!

Amey, working on behalf of the City Council are delivering a Smart City project provided by the technology company, Connexin. Thousands of wireless sensors are being placed around the city that communicate via smart sensors to create a digital highway network.

Smart bins could make our cities a better place. Photograph: Shutterstock
Smart bins could make our cities a better place. Photograph: Shutterstock

Strategy is efficiency

At a time when the Government has legislated that the UK should be net zero carbon by 2050, there is a focus on efficiency to help drive sustainability in cities. Technology is a factor in our lives more and more so why shouldn’t it support a move away from rigid processes to more adaptable programmes; which can improve delivery of services, sustainability and therefore quality of living.

In Sheffield, technology is being implemented to get the most out of resources, digitising what would be manual, people driven processes into smarter, more reactive and therefore more efficient services.

Reducing rubbish on the streets

Alongside schemes to monitor the levels of grit bins, drains and the watering of trees, one of the strategies being used as part of the Smart City programme are rubbish bin sensors.

A sensor is installed on the inside of a bin we see on the streets of our city. Periodically throughout the day a laser projects into the bin, measuring the level of rubbish and sends an alert once the bin is full.

An online data collection service monitors the data from all the bins in the city, checking fill levels of each and alerts of those that need emptying. This data can be reviewed, identifying patterns in the filling of bins, those that are filled more regularly and the average time it takes for a bin to be filled.

Rubbish collectors will always be ahead with this system. Real time monitoring will enable cleaner spaces where there would normally be overflowing bins. This process will reduce unnecessary journeys to empty bins which are only half full, by determining the frequency of collection routes. This in turn helps to provide an improvement in air quality – fewer journeys and energy use, less pollution and reduced congestion leading to a cleaner city space.

Additional benefits will be the opportunity for seasonal waste management, for example planning for large events in the area to provide more collections and preventing bins overflowing.

Interactive control of data

The data is collected in an online asset management system to plan for more proactive and efficient services. With continued improvements to the types of sensor being used and the data that can be collected, these systems are set to keep improving and providing benefits to the city.

At a time when technology and sustainability are at the forefront of our discussions relating to the future of infrastructure, this visit provided an insight into one of the great projects being developed in our cities. It ensures their strategies strive for continuous improvement by implementing digital transformation of processes and contributions to the climate change agenda.

  • Hayley Jackson, ICE president's future leader 2019-20 & site agent at Coffey