The Cognicity project aims to turn Canary Wharf into one of the smartest neighbourhoods in the world

Smart city innovation a 'huge journey' for Canary Wharf

Canary Wharf’s smart city innovation competition has concluded with the announcement of the best innovators in the smart home and design category, although the group managing the east London estate says the real journey has yet to begin.

Puckily and BlockDox impressed the judges in the connected home category and were named the joint winners of the stream with their complementary solutions for smart home management. 3D Repo, a revolutionary Building Information Modelling platform has taken the crown in the Virtual Design and Construction Stream.

The winners have been awarded £50,000 and will have the opportunity to trial their technology within the Canary Wharf estate.

Puckily, founded by entrepreneur Peter Jaco, develops hockey-puck shaped devices fitted with sensors that collect data inside apartments and buildings and communicate with building systems via a secured Bluetooth connection and WiFi.

“Our product is based on the Intel Moon Island gateway,” Jaco explained. “We fit it with various types of sensors such as motion sensors, humidity sensors, temperature sensors or fire sensors to monitor the environment inside the apartment. We can also connect it to the building’s security systems or building management systems.”

The idea is that by monitoring parameters inside the home in real time, owners, tenants or building managers would be promptly informed in case something goes wrong and would be able to mitigate the problem before it causes any damage. The system could also automatically trigger action to optimise conditions inside the apartment, such as lowering blinds when too much sun comes in.

“The technology would be particularly useful for developments such as Wood Wharf (a new residential complex being built next to Canary Wharf),” said Jaco. “There will be about 3,200 homes, many of them will be bought by people who may have other property, they may be investors, they may be mobile business people and they will want their apartment to be monitored to a very high standard.”

For Puckily, meeting their competitor BlockDox came handy. The competition turned into cooperation during the three months of technology development at level 39 at One Canada Square, as the two firms discovered they could easily make-up for each other's shortcomings to offer a more complete product.

While Puckily develops the hardware for smart home monitoring, BlockDox provides the user interface.

“The BlockDox platform is an app for apartment buildings, a dashboard hub which allows building managers to administer the system,” explained BlockDox director Nicolas Shulman. “Puckily actually collects data from various sensors and Block Dox visualises and interprets that data through an app so it can be used in a building environment.”

3D Repo’s innovation, a spin-off from doctoral research of the company’s founder Jozef Dobos, will most likely appeal to architects, construction managers and building maintenance teams.

The system collates data related to a development and connects them with engineering 3D models in a form of an Internet database. Through a smartphone, tablet or computer interface, every worker has all information about each component of the building and its history at his or her fingertips in 3D.

“All other existing systems manage files, they provide solutions similar to DropBox,” Dobos said. “With these systems people upload files and what you get back is again files. Our system is a database, we decompose the files into the constituting parts and this gives us the ability to visualise the data, track changes and even assign QR codes to components that will call up all engineering drawings related to the component.”

Some of the winners of the earlier streams have already put their technology to the test including a traffic management platform for truck deliveries developed by Voyage Control and maker of energy generating floors Pavegen.

Although there won’t be any new companies joining the project in the near future, Canary Wharf representatives believe there is still a lot of work left to do for the firm to fully harvest the benefits of the pioneering project.

"It feels more that it’s a start of a journey than the end of it,” said Cormac MacCrann, Executive Director of Canary Wharf Contractors. “What we have seen is really the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more knowledge and value and opportunity to be gained from this project.”

36 companies joined the challenge, organised by ENTIQ, and competed in six streams including Sustainable Buildings, Integrated Transportation, Automated Building Management and Integrated Resource Management.

“Out of the 36 challengers, we will continue working with about 15 or 16 and that’s going to be a huge journey for us in terms of extracting the maximum value," MacCrann said.

“In many ways, it’s a journey that we don’t know where it will lead us. It’s a whole brave new world of technology that we are embarking on and that’s very exciting.”

In addition to the pilots, many of the innovations are set to become an integral part not only of the Canary Wharf buildings, but also of the new Wood Wharf development.

According to ENTIQ, the Cognicity Challenge was globally unique in the sense that it focused not only on finding the best innovations, but also on implementing them within the prestigious business district.

“For major companies it’s very difficult to buy solutions from young companies because they don’t have all the certifications and processes in place,” said Eric Van der Kleij, Managing Director of ENTIQ. “But what I encourage them to do is to think about what we did with Entiq in helping Canary Wharf to learn how to find these firms, how to mentor them, share responsibility with them and help them develop and test their pilot projects. It is only when the industry starts to specify the solutions and targets for improvement is when we start seeing innovations coming through.”

The project’s proponents believe smart technology would make cities of the future more sustainable, reducing their carbon footprint despite the growing population, but also, more pleasant and welcoming places to live.

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