Sunday 26 June 2022

Vodafone UK Switches-on First Live 'Self-Powering' Mobile Phone Mast

In a press release last year, Vodafone UK had announced that they have developed self-powered mobile towers and will deploy them across the UK, supporting the company’s target of achieving net zero for its UK operations by 2027. 

Vodafone and Crossflow Energy have been collaborating over the last couple of years on the development of Crossflow Energy’s innovative wind turbine technology, combined with the latest in solar and battery technologies, to create a self-powered mobile network tower. In addition, Vodafone's network partner, Cornerstone, had signed up to run a proof of concept to install Crossflow Turbine technology on rural mobile sites.

These ground-breaking Eco-Towers are expected to enable the deployment of new mobile sites in the most remote locations, without the major challenge and cost of connecting to the electricity grid.

In a press release earlier this month, Vodafone announced that it has switched on the the first live wind- and solar-powered mobile phone mast in Pembrokeshire, Wales. The mast will provide 4G coverage to the community of Eglwyswrw. The PR further says:

The specially designed mast, which potentially removes the need for a connection to the national electricity grid, could provide connectivity to ‘not-spots’ in the UK’s most remote and inaccessible locations – helping the industry achieve 95% of UK landmass coverage by 20253. It will also help Vodafone reduce carbon emissions and support its target of reaching net zero UK operations by 2027.

The ‘self-powering’ mast incorporates a unique Crossflow Energy wind turbine that can generate power even in light winds. The mast can be installed without the need to dig trenches and lay electricity cables, making it faster and easier to install and reducing the impact on the local environment.

It is also extremely quiet, making it viable for sensitive sites such as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It can also be ‘filtered out’ as a solid object by radar, birds and bats, so it is easily avoided, making it less harmful to wildlife.

The trial, in partnership with wind turbine technology specialists Crossflow Energy and mobile infrastructure partner Cornerstone, is at Home Farm in the village of Eglwyswrw. It will run for two years and data gathered will help Vodafone optimise the technology and determine which sites are most suitable for ‘self-powering’ masts.

Bringing mobile and internet services to rural communities helps boost the local economy, tackle isolation and close the rural digital divide. To date, building masts in coverage ‘not spots’ without an existing electricity connection has been a significant financial and logistical challenge.

The following video has also been shared:

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Friday 10 June 2022

Omniflow Smart Street Lighting for 5G and IoT

I wrote about Omniflow back in 2017 so it was nice to see it in reality at MWC 2022 at Deutsche Telekom stand. A blog post on Telekom's website throws more light on the partnership:

Omniflow’s smart IoT lamp pole provides light, WiFi access, measures traffic flows, and many other services, all powered by sun and wind and using Telekom’s 5G technology.

Conventional street lights provide light, consuming a considerable amount of energy. Generating this energy releases up to 1.3 tonnes of CO2 per year. Not so with the smart IoT lamp pole manufactured by a Portuguese company, Omniflow. Omniflow’s state-of-the-art Smart Pole supports all kinds of practical uses such as traffic monitoring, smart parking, WiFi access, 5G small cells and many more. And thanks to solar modules, a wind turbine and integrated energy storage the smart pole can operate even during power network fails, being resilient and very energy-efficient. Compared with conventional street lighting, that enables operators to reduce their energy costs by over 90 percent.

A further reason for the growing global success of Omniflow smart poles is that the lights can be equipped with a wide range of IoT functions. Telekom supports this sustainable Smart City solution with LTE and 5G small cell modules for functions such as WiFi reception and data transmission to the cloud. Omniflow already has more than 2,000 smart poles in use around the world.

Digital Catapult has a case study on Omniflow here:

A graduate in material engineering, Pedro Ruão is the company founder and CEO of Omniflow. He started his career in product design, developing 3D prototypes. 

In 2009, a magazine article caught Pedro’s attention – a feature on Richard Branson and his search for cleantech innovators. Although Pedro did not work directly with energy at the time, the article inspired him to start formulating ideas. 

Pedro’s original idea was to generate and sell energy using a hybrid turbine and solar energy device. However, he soon realised this would be difficult to scale, let alone compete with the megawatts produced by giant wind farms and solar parks. 

Instead, Pedro saw the potential of using edge computing and IoT technologies to transform the turbine into a multi-purpose device, designing the Omniflow Smart Pole. 

Powered by wind and solar with integrated battery storage, the Omniflow Smart Pole transforms a regular streetlight into a sustainable smart infrastructure. One unit can provide WiFi, IoT sensors, computer vision, traffic management and charging points for electric vehicles or phones, among many possible services, to drive additional revenue for cities.

In 2021, Omniflow joined the 5PRING Green Innovation accelerator programme, designed to help small businesses develop cutting-edge technologies that reduce carbon emissions using 5G connectivity. 

5PRING is part of a programme of strategic projects led by West Midlands 5G (WM5G) to accelerate the benefits of 5G throughout the region.

As the technical lead for the 5PRING Green Innovation accelerator programme, Digital Catapult supported Omniflow to validate its 5G use case and access 5G testbed facilities.

Refining the technical configuration setup to use the 5G testbed, Digital Catapult installed the Omniflow test equipment and remotely performed tests using a private 5G network. 

By reporting latency of 17ms – compared to 125ms with public 4G – Digital Catapult confirmed that Omniflow’s unit would allow the delivery of a real-time surveillance solution and process video analytics through 5G.

Omniflow installations now span all continents, from Asia, to Europe and the United States. In Dubai Internet City, Omniflow is in partnership with Hewlett Packard Enterprise, showcasing 5G capabilities and innovation with an Omniflow Smart Pole equipped with computer vision, public WiFi and edge computing services. 

As a key market for green innovation, California has adopted a wide range of Omniflow solutions and 5G-enabled services across the state, including airport infrastructure, university campus security, city-wide smart lampposts and onboard technology for boats, used for Alcatraz Cruises. 

As cities across the UK commit to net zero targets, an Omniflow installation in Manchester recently reported energy savings of more than 90%, simply by replacing two-year-old LED streetlights.

Omniflow is also seeing a growing interest in drone charging stations, beneficial for managing solar parks, wind farms or surveillance for areas with a large perimeter. Powered by the smart pole, drones can also be used for logistics or medical emergencies, deploying defibrillators on demand.

With the expansion of its 5G offering and solutions, Omniflow plans to increase the battery capacity of its units, which could collectively generate megawatts of power.

Recently, Omniflow was selected as one of the 12 startups for AWS Sustainable Cities Accelerator. You can read the details on Pedro Ruão's LinkedIn post here.

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