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Laying The Roots For A Truly Smart City

Computer-generated image of Quintain’s vision for Wembley Park in 2027

You arrive at Wembley Park underground station and swipe out using your phone. Immediately, the wider development detects your unique network on the WiFi. Your apartment is triggered to warm up from its dormant state and the kettle starts to boil. You walk up Olympic Way and tailored adverts flash up on digital screens. Lamps come on to light your path. Music drifts toward you from hidden speakers.

This isn’t a real experience — yet. This is the vision for Wembley Park, which will be a showcase of premier smart city technology. Velocity1, a joint venture between Quintain and Irish firm Magnet Networks, is busy delivering the connectivity networks the park needs for this vision to become reality, including fibre optics, Sigfox, NB-IOT and Zigbee to name a few. Success boils down to getting the infrastructure right first.

“You need to start with the DNA of a building,” Velocity1 CEO Mark Kellett said. “From here, all the components of a smart building can knit together to create a truly smart development. It’s why Wembley Park’s connectivity is already miles ahead of any other location.”

The Connected Developer

Increasingly, connecting our smartphones, fridges, cars — you name it — is becoming less of a nice-to-have and more a need-to-have. Residents, both residential and commercial, are increasingly demanding landlords offer high levels of connectivity.

“Today, connectivity is a utility that enables everything,” Kellett said. “The internet is like electricity; without it nothing will work. It creates the whole experience.”

Quintain’s 85-acre Wembley Park development has a unique mix of connectivity needs. When complete, it will have 7,500 homes, a vast retail and leisure offering, a stadium hosting 90,000 fans and an arena holding 12,500 people. All these people and businesses need the internet.

“We’re working with Quintain to design the most efficient network topology possible so we can deliver exceptional connectivity,” Kellett said. “There are two reasons why a developer such as Quintain wants smart tech; to help manage its estate and to provide exceptional experience.”

Estate management includes security, crowd control and efficiencies. For example, location-based services can highlight a high concentration of people in the park on an event day so more security or cleaners can be deployed. Behavioural data will allow apartments to be run more efficiently and reduce operational expenditure, a high priority in build-to-rent buildings such as those run by Tipi, Quintain’s BTR management brand. 

For example, as Tipi pays all utilities, technology could be used to recognise patterns in tenants’ behaviour, turning off lights and lowering the heating when not needed. In that way, high connectivity can add value in ways that a developer hasn’t thought of, Kellett said.

“We can add to a company’s marketing strategy,” he said. “For example, as each fan will be on their own network, we can see where their device is in the park, which shops or restaurants they use, and when they leave. This provides an opportunity for the park’s managers to enhance visitors’ experience, to find marketing messages that encourage them to spend more time there.”

Alto at Wembley Park

The Connected Tenant

While much of the technology to manage the estate will be hidden, the cool part of smart technology is how a tenant and visitor can be given an exceptional experience. Each visitor to the park will automatically be able to join fast broadband. Each individual apartment has a piece of fibre bringing in at least 40 megabytes of bandwidth, which can be upgraded to 100 MB. Residents will take their own high bandwidth everywhere in the park when they step out of the door to their apartment.

“This will become the best-connected place to be in London,” Kellett said.

This is critical for the new types of events held at Wembley Arena. What was built as an Olympic swimming pool in the 1930s now has enough connectivity to host daylong e-sports events, where high bandwidth is critical. The Wembley Park Boxpark has similar needs; vendors need WiFi for contactless payments, the facility needs CCTV and so on.

“If the network goes down, they can’t trade, so we can’t let that happen,” Kellett said. “We have a backup for the backup for the backup. We’re also putting in technology to reduce hacking. Each person or business will be on their own network, which significantly reduces the chance of eavesdropping which can happen over a shared network.”

The Crucial Bottom Layer

To get all this technology working, Velocity1 is working with Quintain to design an infrastructure that will not only deliver the desired connectivity, but will reduce installation, upgrade and running costs. For example, cabling can be reduced by 60%.

“We will use converged networks to allow one cable infrastructure to deliver separate networks for internet, audio, lights and so on,” Kellett said. “At Wembley Park we can do something really special with continuous connectivity because there is one landlord across all 85 acres. This is very different to in a city.”

The smart vision for Wembley Park is still some way off. Technology is still evolving to the point where everything will be smart, from the car park and bins to apartments and retail. For example, Kellett described a printable photovoltaic technology being trialled elsewhere that wraps around a building like clingfilm, providing power. However, Magnet Networks is already speaking to developers in cities from Mumbai to Sao Paulo about using similar technology to turn old factories into smart data centres, or old offices into smart residential apartments.

“As a company, we’ve been on a journey that started with connectivity and is now focused on enabling smart technology,” Kellett said. “We’re now building a global PropTech business. Whenever I visit a city, people say ‘I want the technology used in Wembley Park’. It really is miles ahead.”

Everyone’s eyes are opening to the opportunities posed by smart technology; investors are spotting ways to boost yields while developers are attracting the best tenants. All around the world, cities are waking up to a new dawn of total connectivity.

This feature was produced by Bisnow Branded Content in collaboration with Velocity1. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.