- In collaboration with Microsoft, smart city technology firm Telensa is launching an urban data collection platform that will see its first test in its home city of Cambridge in the United Kingdom starting in March.
- The Urban Data Project will use Telensa’s multi-sensor pods installed on streetlight poles to gather video and radar feeds. The data will be collected on a trust platform built by Microsoft Azure and managed by a city data guardian, who will apply privacy policies and comply with regulations.
- Among the data that Telensa says it will collect is the mix of traffic on roads, noise levels, hyper-local air quality and mapping how people use public space.
While Telensa has worked on sensors for a decade, CEO Will Franks said in a statement that data collection and storage was the natural next step. "For us, it was always about data, and finding an economic way for cities to take control of their urban data assets," he said.
Data is the lifeblood of any smart city, and governments are looking for more ways to collect it and store it safely. Telensa’s focus on good data governance, with the designation of a “city data guardian,” is similar to the debate over Sidewalk Labs’ planned smart city development in Toronto. The project has proved controversial because it would be collecting large amounts of data on residents and visitors to support its adaptive infrastructure; officials from the Alphabet-backed sponsor eventually laid out plans to incorporate a third party “independent, civic data trust” to handle data storage.
The partnership marks another move by Microsoft into the rich smart city space, following its acquisition of Moovit to put transit data into Azure maps, and its heavy interest in artificial intelligence (AI) and internet of things (IoT) sensors. The company’s cloud network offers an appealing platform for data storage, and the collaboration with Telensa could show other cities how Microsoft can safely manage and protect important data.
The companies have not announced plans to expand the Urban Data Project, but Claire Ruskin, the CEO of the Cambridge Network, said the city was excited to host the first trial as a way to support its “Smart Cambridge” initiative. More data, she said in a statement, “supports activities that help to make Greater Cambridge even better to live and work in” and the project would provide “the tools to use the data responsibly with policies that are transparent to our residents.”