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Suffolk Live Labs: all about that data

9 March 2020

Suffolk County Council’s £4.41m Live Lab is exploring how we can use smart technology across our urban, rural and coastal environments to revolutionise the services we deliver.

Data is the core of our project and we will be analysing information collected from sensors that monitor road surface temperature, vehicle numbers and classifications, gully levels and air quality to make working efficiencies and reduce costs. We will be testing a multitude of sensors across our differing environments and ultimately working to develop new national standards and guidance.

Our aim is to collate all this data to create a holistic, real-time, whole network view across the road system that we can use to transform our services, generate income, reduce congestion and increase public safety, care and security. Through testing across a range of challenging environments, we plan to ensure other local authorities can benefit from a variety of solutions while schools and universities can support learning and research across a range of subjects and disciplines from data and cybersecurity to bioscience and conservation.

We’re moving into the testing phase now, installing sensors at BT’s Adastral Park innovation centre in a head to head scenario to ensure calibration and accuracy. We will be installing multiple central management systems to act as a central point to receive data and selecting locations for the sensors that will enable us to monitor their effectiveness in different site conditions. The team is also reviewing how we can best use the Council’s assets as potential equipment mounts, for example, using street lighting infrastructure for 5G technology as it comes on stream.

We will be working closely with partners to evaluate these new technologies and compare with existing standards, having established baseline data prior to deployment to ensure the data analytics are meaningful. The resulting data will be analysed by the University of Suffolk in conjunction with the British Standards Institute. 

Last month, we showcased our work to Matt Eglington, Highways, Maintenance and Innovation Policy Manager for the Department for Transport, who also wrote last month’s blog! We shared progress and the challenges we have experienced to date - with this being Suffolk’s first R&D project, we’ve started everything from scratch. It’s hugely exciting, not just the technology and innovation, but also learning to do things differently. We’ve implemented a new approach to working with partners, including drafting project-specific terms and conditions that offer a degree of comfort and consistency. It’s meant we’ve avoided going through third parties and saved us money, but it’s been challenging to set up. 

We then moved on to Adastral Park to look at the testbeds of sensors sited within the grounds where Dr Hannah Steventon, our Associate Researcher, explained what each sensor did and gave a flavour of the data being captured, how it will be displayed on our specifically designed dashboard and some of the emerging trends. So far, the biggest of these have been traffic patterns during the working week and weekends and when Ipswich Town are playing a home match!

These are exciting times for the Suffolk Live Lab. Over the next few months, once sensors have been proved at the test bed, we will start to deploy in the field and that’s when the fun really starts!