Smart London Plan: Boris seeks wayfinding solutions for booming population

The Mayor of London's office has partnered with the Institute for Sustainability to support local SMEs with innovative 'navigation and wayfinding' solutions that could cope with the demands of the capital's growing population.

A new district-level competition has been launched, offering small businesses and entrepreneurs the chance to put forward their ideas for navigation and wayfinding technology that would have positive environmental impacts such as reduced air, noise or water pollution and increased user engagement with the environment.

Winning software or hardware solutions will be able to pitch their innovations to organisations involved in some of the highest-profile redevelopment districts across the capital. The competition is part of Boris Johnson’s ‘Smart London’ Plan to address resource pressures whilst creating new economic and research opportunities. 

Rising congestion

“We are working directly with organisations delivering large-scale redevelopment projects, to show how utilisation of smart technology can make a significant contribution to the economic, environmental and social sustainability of cities and communities,” said Institute for Sustainability chief executive and Smart London board member Ian Short. 

The competition is specifically looking for market-ready or close-to-market solutions that could be applied on a district scale to model people or traffic movement and help residents and visitors ‘engage with their surroundings’. 

The Deputy Mayor for Business and Enterprise Kit Malthouse added: “As London grows, places to work and live are being transformed and renewed. This competition will offer the capital’s businesses the opportunity to harness the power of new technologies to improve the lives of Londoners.”

Clearing the air

One of the key measures of success of the Mayor’s Smart London Plan will be meeting a target of reducing emissions in London’s transport sector by 50% by 2020 to ensure London has the best air quality of any major world city. Navigation and wayfinding have been identifies as priority areas for the Plan – congestion costs the economy an estimated £2bn a year and stalled traffic in London has been found to lead to 8% more CO2, 6% more PM10 and up to 9% more NOx emissions than free-flowing traffic. 

Government figures released last summer revealed that London will exceed European limits on air pollution levels until at least 2030. In November, Johnson was forced to accept that Oxford Street has some of the world’s highest recorded levels of nitrogen dioxide following research by Kings College London. He had initially dismissed the claim as a ‘ludicrous urban myth’. 

The Mayor has since upped efforts to tackle London’s air pollution problem by announcing £330m of funding to be spent on 2,400 green buses and taxis and 10,000 street trees; to assist in the creation of the world’s first ‘Ultra Low Emission Zone’ in central London in 2020.

And just last week, Johnson announced The Mayors Big Green Fund II which will provide funding of £900,000 in individual grants of £175,000 towards environmental improvements including better walking and cycling links between green spaces.

The deadline for submissions to the wayfinding innovation competition is Friday, 20 February 2015. Further details on how to enter the competition can be found here.

Lucinda Dann

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