5G-Enabled testing at our innovation hubs – Tay5G Innovation Challenge Winner: Digiflec
In September this year, the Tay5G challenge fund winners were announced – Digiflec, Neutral Wireless working with QTV, James Hutton Ltd and Scotland Re:Design.
Tay5G, a Tay Cities Region Deal project in collaboration with The Scotland 5G Centre and industry partners, aims to accelerate the development of innovative projects utilising the power of 5G technology to transform various sectors supported with around £430,000 of Scottish Government funding as part of its £2million investment in Tay5G.
We spoke to Steven Gillan, Director at Digiflec about what they’re looking to achieve as a Tay5G challenge winner and why they’re using 5G for their Connected Intelligent Infrastructure Monitoring project.
1. Tell us about Digiflec?
We are a dynamic company that operates with a small yet diverse team, combining various skills and backgrounds to tackle challenges effectively. Our journey began in the field of LiDAR technology sales, led by Steven Gillan, the Company Director. Over time, we’ve expanded our horizons through research and development projects, aiming to harness the potential of LiDAR data in asset management and smart city technologies. Apart from offering LiDAR technology from top manufacturers, Digiflec provides services such as Mobile Mapping and Connected Intelligent Infrastructure Management (CiiM), specifically tailored for Smart City and intelligent transportation systems (ITS). With over 15 years of experience in LiDAR technology, the Digiflec team have been actively involved in its development and is enthusiastic about exploring its potential to create a safer, more intelligent world.
Founded in March 2020, despite facing challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic in its first year, Digiflec thrived under Steven’s guidance. By mid-2021, the company was well-positioned to take on a challenge presented by CivTech 6, which collaborates with Scottish public sector organizations to address pressing issues through technology-based solutions. One such challenge involved managing traffic and public road infrastructure in rural and remote areas, which lacked reliable data. Steven recognized the potential of LiDAR’s spatial data to address this challenge. We successfully completed the CivTech exploration and accelerator phases, ultimately entering into a pre-commercial agreement with Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS). Together, we developed a groundbreaking Mobile Mapping system that revolutionized road surveys, outperforming traditional methods. This collaboration exemplified how innovation can significantly enhance operational efficiency. Subsequently, Digiflec delved into pioneering work in Intelligent Transportation Systems, creating the Connected Intelligent Infrastructure Management (CiiM) system. CiiM can detect and classify various types of vehicles, cyclists, and pedestrians, offering the potential to create smart intersections and urban areas while transforming data visualization in urban planning. At the core, Digiflec is driven by the belief that high-quality, reliable three-dimensional data is essential for informed decision-making about the allocation of material and financial resources to shape our world. We aspire to a future where such granular 3D data is the linchpin for creating a more interactive, intelligent world, where decisions are made with reference to comprehensive data.
2. What are the challenges facing local authorities and communities looking to become ‘smart cities’ and how can Digiflec support?
Without a reliable spatial monitoring system, local governments are unable to make informed decisions that benefit their communities and the environment.
We understand that the current challenges faced by local authorities and communities are centred round making the best use of our available resources (material resources, but also time and financial resources) to ensure that everyone has a good standard of living. Local authorities are under particular pressure to ensure that public money is put to the best possible use.
A ‘smart’ urban environment is thought of as a modern urban area equipped with advanced technology and a network of electronic sensors designed to collect specific types of data. Information gained from that data is used to manage assets, resources and services efficiently; in return, that data is used to improve operations across the city. The foundation of a smart city is data, and the more comprehensive, accurate and reliable that data is, the more can be done with it to manage assets, resources and services efficiently, and be used to make confident decisions about maintenance, repairs, upgrades and more ambitious urban design and redesign projects. The data gathered using LiDAR is extremely rich and accurate (Here’s a short description of how LiDAR works if that would be helpful!) and can be gathered virtually continuously. It outstrips traditional data gathering methods in terms both cost and quality of the data gathered.
Digiflec are working to make this rich data available to local authorities in useable formats, so that they can make confident, evidence-based decisions.
3. How does Connected Intelligent Infrastructure Monitoring work?
Connected Intelligent Infrastructure Monitoring uses LiDAR sensors installed so that they can ‘see’ a key area. The sensors collect dynamic spatial data about vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists, displaying their speed and the direction they’re heading. This active tracking of patterns enables organisations to understand accurately how the area is being used, with a level of detail that has never been achieved before. The data can be seen in real time, and it is also stored so that it can be used to gain insights about how the area is used through time, and measure the impact of any changes which have been implemented. The use cases differ for how the data might be used in real time or retroactively.
Data and data visualisation are already key components of the urban design process, and CiiM opens up possibilities for taking this to new levels of depth and precision, allowing for more confident and creative urban design through the uncovering of complex patterns of activity. It could be useful to have data about how an area is used by cyclists, for example, to help understand how an area might be made more user-friendly for active travellers.
In real time, the data might be used for a number of ‘smart’ applications including Parking/Loading/EV charge bay occupancy and duration, identifying high sided vehicles in high wind conditions which might pose a danger when crossing a bridge, measure taxi and bus stop occupancy/demand and identify in real time when services are needed, identify accident hotspots via near miss identification, traffic light control optimisation and the creation of smart intersections, the identification of people in restricted areas who might be vulnerable, pinpointing anti-social behaviour.
4. As a Tay5G winner, what are you looking to achieve with this project?
Winning the Tay5G funding will allow Digiflec to increase the capabilities of CiiM whilst also making the system more cost-effective and easier to install (and relocate if necessary).
Digiflec, together with Tay 5G and The Scotland 5G Centre to expand the capabilities of our Connected Intelligent Infrastructure System, while reducing the system hardware requirements and cost. 5G, with its increased bandwidth, high reliability and low latency, will allow the use of multiple sensors and remote data processing. Digiflec, having already developed and deployed a single sensor system which transmits data over 4G, are working to make CiiM more powerful, cost effective and easier to install.
The project is centred round two CiiM installation sites in Dundee, and by the end of the programme, Digiflec will have a system where data from multiple sensors is transmitted over a 5G network to be handled by a single processor. 5G functionality means that one edge processor can be used for a number of sensors, reducing costs and energy consumption, and conserving resources. Less equipment and cabling will also allow for easier installation and relocation of the system.
5. What does 5G offer the project?
5G connectivity is predicted to be a principal ‘smart city’ technology. Smart intersections and intelligent traffic management systems are expected to be key features in future cities, and they need highly reliable, low latency data transmission to function. Ultimately, this project will use the Dundee 5G network to explore how 5G will be used in the development and creation of smart cities through the creation of 5G enabled, real-world smart urban areas. DigiFlec are excited to be involved in this early, pioneering, stage in the creation of Scottish smart cities which will better meet our needs as citizens.