How BT’s technology can help to build better connected and more sustainable towns and cities

By James Browne, Head of Street at BT

Coverage of the recent COP26 climate summit in Glasgow brought concerns around climate change to the forefront of many peoples’ minds, with the event being an opportunity for global leaders to meet and discuss ways to tackle climate change. While it didn’t give us all the answers, it is clear we need to work together to take collective action. This applies to us as individuals, as well as the pressing responsibility that businesses have, both large and small.

At BT, we’ve set our own target to become Net Zero by 2030 for our own operational emissions, and by 2040 for our supply chain and customer emissions. We’re proactively sharing knowledge with our partners so that the entire ecosystem can work together to achieve the Government’s Net Zero emissions target. BT is an active member of the SME Climate Hub which aims to share best practice and motivate SMEs to halve their greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and reach Net Zero emissions by 2050.

Supporting initiatives to help drive sustainable outcomes is something we have been working on with local authorities and our public sector customers for some time. Most recently, we’re delighted to have won the Responsible Business Alliance Innovation Award at a COP 26 event hosted by DEFRA, recognising the work of our Green Tech Innovation Platform which has been designed to help develop innovative technology to help support our public sector customers in their transition to Net Zero.

Smarter streets

I was fortunate enough to attend the COP26 'Tech for Climate Action' event in Glasgow to showcase some of the innovative technology we’re developing to help local authorities across the country to meet their climate targets.

For example, we recently launched our Street Hub 2.0 units which can incorporate air quality and CO2 sensors to provide local councils with the insight needed to help them take action to improve air quality, contributing to the health and wellbeing of local people and helping local councils to meet their sustainability goals. To date, around 300 councils have declared a climate emergency, and are taking steps to reduce carbon emissions in their local areas, with two thirds declaring an ambition to be carbon neutral by 2030.

Working with start-up Everimpact through our Green Tech Innovation Platform, the solution combines Everimpact’s satellite data and AI technology with air quality and CO2 data collated via sensors on BT’s street furniture, including our Street Hub 2.0 units. Local councils will then be able to access the data via a ‘Smart City Dashboard’ where they will be able to track emissions, and receive certified carbon offsetting information, enabling local councils to generate funds for their decarbonisation efforts. Street Hub 2.0 units also feature a sustainable design and are powered by renewable electricity.

In addition to helping local authorities to meet their sustainability goals, our new Street Hub 2.0 units can also help councils to reach their economic and social improvement goals. Street Hubs provide ultrafast Wi-Fi connectivity and free calls to anyone in the UK and an emergency call button. The new units can also help improve mobile network coverage and capacity with the option to incorporate 4G and 5G small cells, allowing councils to meet the demands of their increasingly digitally connected local residents, businesses and visitors to the high street.

A boost for local businesses

Each unit also includes two digital screens that can be updated in real-time to share important public health and safety messages – a feature which was used during the recent national lockdowns - as well as sharing updates on council services. They also offer local businesses and brands the opportunity to invest in digital street advertising to better promote their products and services. To celebrate the roll-out of the new Street Hub 2.0 units and to support local businesses following the Covid-19 pandemic, I’m really proud of the fact that BT is donating up to £7.5 million of outdoor advertising space on the screens to small businesses across those cities where our new units are being rolled out.

Glasgow is the second city in the country to benefit from the new Street Hub 2.0 units, with the first unit in Scotland unveiled today in Sauchiehall Street, one of the main shopping streets city centre. With nominations open now, we’re calling on local businesses and the public to nominate local firms who could benefit from the free advertising offer.

Subject to local planning processes, we’re aiming to roll out around 300 of our new Street Hub 2.0 units across the UK over the next 12 months, working closely with local councils and communities.

Building a bright, sustainable future

It’s clear that local authorities have an important role to play in building better connected and more sustainable towns and cities, however, we know it’s not an easy undertaking. Working in partnership, BT can support local authorities by providing future-ready infrastructure and environment monitoring solutions as they look to build a more sustainable future for both the public and local businesses.

To find out more about BT’s Street Hubs visit: https://business.bt.com/public-sector/street-hubs/

About BT

BT Group is the UK’s leading telecommunications and network provider and a leading provider of global communications services and solutions, serving customers in 180 countries. Its principal activities in the UK include the provision of fixed voice, mobile, broadband and TV (including Sport) and a range of products and services over converged fixed and mobile networks to consumer, business and public sector customers. For its global customers, BT provides managed services, security and network and IT infrastructure services to support their operations all over the world. BT consists of four customer-facing units: Consumer, Enterprise, Global and its wholly-owned subsidiary, Openreach, which provides access network services to over 650 communications provider customers who sell phone, broadband and Ethernet services to homes and businesses across the UK.

For the year ended 31 March 2021, BT Group’s reported revenue was £21,331m with reported profit before taxation of £1,804m.

British Telecommunications plc is a wholly-owned subsidiary of BT Group plc and encompasses virtually all businesses and assets of the BT Group. BT Group plc is listed on the London Stock Exchange.

For more information, visit www.bt.com/about