Massimiliano Claps
Max Claps (Research Director, IDC Government Insights)

The Welsh Executive and Welsh local councils have embraced a low-carbon pathway. The City of Cardiff is at the forefront of this, with the city’s investments in smart outdoor lighting as part of its environmental sustainability program winning the IDC Europe and Central Asia Smart City Award for Sustainable Public Infrastructure.

Cities Step Up Their “Smart” Maturity

In 2020, 10%–30% of smart city IoT projects will fail to launch or scale due to ill-defined outcomes or KPIs, poor understanding of vendor offerings, or inadequate funding and stakeholder engagement.

Cities have been investing in smart city programs for almost 10 years but have failed to scale pilot projects after encountering governance, technical, and regulatory challenges. But in the past couple of years, many European and Central Asian cities have started to achieve the intended improvements in quality of life, economic prosperity, and resilience.

These cities have made sure that all residents have enjoyed the benefits. They have managed to deliver quick wins in specific use cases and have reused the modular solutions they have built to extend the capabilities across the whole city.

IDC evaluated 53 projects submitted for the IDC Europe and Central Asia Smart City Awards. The projects were scored on six variables:

  • Scale of impact across the city
  • Governance of innovation
  • Ecosystem engagement
  • Measurement and monitoring of results
  • Adoption of 3rd Platform technologies such as cloud, Big Data, and AI
  • Strategic use of data

Cardiff’s Smart Outdoor Lighting Success Story

Streetlighting in Cardiff accounts for 25% of the council’s CO2 emissions. The initial implementation included switching more than 14,000 streetlights to LED to reduce electricity consumption. The solution also enables the city to manage lights from a central lighting management system. City operation managers can remotely adjust the illumination based on time of day, weather, traffic conditions, or events taking place in a public space.

For example, operation managers can turn up the lighting if there is a traffic accident or if a crime has been committed, dim the lights to 30% at night when fewer people are around, or increase light levels at peak times outside schools and hospitals to maximize safety and visibility. The city worked with partners such as Jacobs Engineering, Faithful & Gould, Signify (formerly Philips Lighting), and Centre Great Ltd. to implement the project.

Cardiff won the award for a number of reasons, including:

  • Reducing electricity consumption by 60% and saving more than £750,000 a year
  • Reducing maintenance costs
  • Dynamically adjusting illumination during the day or night to enhance safety
  • Daytime switching to drastically reduce fault location time for underground supply failures

IDC suggests that other cities trying to replicate this success when investing in similar projects should:

  • Collaborate with an ecosystem of partners that bring complementary expertise
  • Set up an infrastructure that can scale from smart lighting by adding sensors to monitor noise, traffic, or other applications


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