By Ronan Leonard. An interesting interview with Rachel Eyres, the UK and Ireland director of. Silver Springs Networks who last year commenced a smart city and energy efficiency programme in Crossmolina, County Mayo. Following the announcement, I interviewed Rachel for a podcast last year and I caught up with her to find out about how their project in Co Mayo is going and what else they have been doing in Ireland since then.

How is your project in Co Mayo going?

It’s going very well, the smart street lighting project has been running for some months now and we are close to starting phase 2 of the project, which is about adding smart metering to the same network and energy efficiency in people’s homes.

You recently launched another smart street lighting trial in Dundrum how did that come about? 

We’ve been working with local authorities in Ireland to help them address challenges they face around reducing energy consumption (and therefore bills) and bringing about operational improvements, and how they have seen an increased interest in deploying our intelligent street light technology to achieve these benefits. Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council is a very forward thinking council and is part of the “Smart Dublin” initiative, which is looking to collaborate with smart city technology providers, and we look forward to other IoT demonstrations opportunities in Dundrum.

How secure are your products?

Our networking platform is purpose built for critical infrastructure, so security has been built in from the ground up. You cannot manage real-time switching and control on power networks, as we do all over the world, without having a robust end to end security model which has been thoroughly tested and approved by the utilities running those networks. We are starting to see an increased interest in cyber security from cities who are investigating smart technologies, and we welcome this.

Do you use batteries to power your equipment or do you use solar power?

We are able to connect battery powered devices such as gas and water meters to our platform, and our core networking infrastructure, which is typically connected to mains power and consumes very little power in order to run a large scale network.  In Ireland’s case, the source of that power includes a significant proportion of renewable generation technologies, due to the large generation mix nationally. 

If you use batteries, how long do they last and are they easy to replace?

To some extent it depends on what they are being used for – for water meters, for example, which only communicate once per day, the batteries will last for many years.

You have some other trials with the ESB can you explain what they are?

 These trials relate to communications for smart grid technologies.

Smart metering is coming to Ireland soon, do you plan to put in a tender bid?

Although we cannot comment on active tenders, we do believe that we have demonstrated the value of Silver Spring’s proven technology in the Ireland market with both smart energy and smart city projects in Crossmolina and in other areas. 

How do you see smart city technology evolving over the next five years?

 Street lighting has so far been the main smart city technology, and has substantially matured over the last five years – we expect that many other applications such as traffic management, parking, pollution monitoring, smart waste management and others will move from trials into real, large scale deployments over the coming years. In order to be ready for the potential benefits that these technologies can bring to cities, we think local authorities should now be starting to look at open, standards-based data and communication platforms that are able to support them in a reliable, secure way.