The Omniflow Smart Pole transforms regular street lighting into sustainable smart infrastructure.
Powered by wind and solar energy, the Omniflow Smart Pole combines edge computing, IoT technology and 5G connectivity within a single carbon-neutral unit, providing over 90% energy savings when compared to traditional street lighting.
A graduate in material engineering, Pedro Ruão is the company founder and CEO of Omniflow. He started his career in product design, developing 3D prototypes.
In 2009, a magazine article caught Pedro’s attention – a feature on Richard Branson and his search for cleantech innovators. Although Pedro did not work directly with energy at the time, the article inspired him to start formulating ideas.
Pedro’s original idea was to generate and sell energy using a hybrid turbine and solar energy device. However, he soon realised this would be difficult to scale, let alone compete with the megawatts produced by giant wind farms and solar parks.
Instead, Pedro saw the potential of using edge computing and IoT technologies to transform the turbine into a multi-purpose device, designing the Omniflow Smart Pole.
Powered by wind and solar with integrated battery storage, the Omniflow Smart Pole transforms a regular streetlight into a sustainable smart infrastructure. One unit can provide WiFi, IoT sensors, computer vision, traffic management and charging points for electric vehicles or phones, among many possible services, to drive additional revenue for cities.
The Omniflow Smart Pole declutters outdated infrastructure and helps cities to achieve their carbon-neutral goals.
Compared to traditional street lighting, the smart pole can reduce power consumption by more than 90% and help cities achieve their carbon-neutral goals.
“It’s our intention to scale up the number of services in one unit. So, we think of it as a platform that we can scale up in the future,” said Pedro Ruão, co-founder and CEO of Omniflow.
“For example, a recent installation in Spain uses edge computing, with smart lighting and public WiFi. It also processes traffic analytics and counts people using the beach,” he added. “We are also studying the implementation of 5G small cells to provide connectivity on the beach.”
Across the world, Omniflow estimates there are 500 million outdoor lighting units housing 20-year-old technology. The company aims to update these units, declutter city streets and reduce outdated infrastructure.
To update street lights, installation can often be as simple as connecting to the existing infrastructure, foundations and poles, then replacing old lights with Omniflow technology, avoiding costly civil works.
“This is the perfect scenario,” explained Pedro Ruão. “We can merge everything into a sustainable, energy-efficient infrastructure, reducing the CO2 emissions and power consumption from the old unit.”
With units deployed globally, the company developed OmniConnect – cloud-based software able to visualise and control its systems and other devices while providing valuable data and analysis.
“The OmniConnect dashboard is like the digital twin of a city,” said Pedro Ruão. “We can use this information to optimise cities, with real-time information about the traffic and available parking, for example.”
Digital Catapult helped us bridge the gap between 5G technology and our solution. Digital Catapult always ensured the process went smoothly and helped us achieve what we wanted to prove with 5G.Pedro Ruão Founder and CEO of Omniflow
Omniflow joins the 5PRING Green Innovation accelerator programme to advance its road safety concept, using 5G connectivity.
In 2021, Omniflow joined the 5PRING Green Innovation accelerator programme, designed to help small businesses develop cutting-edge technologies that reduce carbon emissions using 5G connectivity.
5PRING is part of a programme of strategic projects led by West Midlands 5G (WM5G) to accelerate the benefits of 5G throughout the region.
As the technical lead for the 5PRING Green Innovation accelerator programme, Digital Catapult supported Omniflow to validate its 5G use case and access 5G testbed facilities.
Refining the technical configuration setup to use the 5G testbed, Digital Catapult installed the Omniflow test equipment and remotely performed tests using a private 5G network.
By reporting latency of 17ms – compared to 125ms with public 4G – Digital Catapult confirmed that Omniflow’s unit would allow the delivery of a real-time surveillance solution and process video analytics through 5G.
“We can use 5G in two different ways with our technology,” Pedro explained. “We can house 5G technology and provide connectivity to citizens or a private network or create 5G applications, such as road safety functionalities and drone charging stations.
“We focused on road safety and integrated the computer vision module with 5G connectivity. During the programme we validated our concept and tested to ensure that, theoretically, it was possible to achieve very low latency for this type of application.”
City by city, the use cases advance.
Omniflow installations now span all continents, from Asia, to Europe and the United States. In Dubai Internet City, Omniflow is in partnership with Hewlett Packard Enterprise, showcasing 5G capabilities and innovation with an Omniflow Smart Pole equipped with computer vision, public WiFi and edge computing services.
As a key market for green innovation, California has adopted a wide range of Omniflow solutions and 5G-enabled services across the state, including airport infrastructure, university campus security, city-wide smart lampposts and onboard technology for boats, used for Alcatraz Cruises.
As cities across the UK commit to net zero targets, an Omniflow installation in Manchester recently reported energy savings of more than 90%, simply by replacing two-year-old LED streetlights.
“Right now, we are in talks regarding many big projects around the globe,” said Pedro Ruão. “But not only streetlights, bus stops are also a great use for this technology.”
“Using 5G connectivity, we can create a lot of value for bus passengers, with real-time arrival information, audio communications and phone charging points. We also provide valuable information for transport management, such as how many people are waiting at the bus stop, allowing them to optimise the route.”
Omniflow is also seeing a growing interest in drone charging stations, beneficial for managing solar parks, wind farms or surveillance for areas with a large perimeter. Powered by the smart pole, drones can also be used for logistics or medical emergencies, deploying defibrillators on demand.
Supplying energy on demand at a utility scale.
With the expansion of its 5G offering and solutions, Omniflow plans to increase the battery capacity of its units, which could collectively generate megawatts of power.
Pedro Ruão explained, “Another application is the smart grid. We have a project that will use second-hand batteries from electric vehicles, which can increase, almost tenfold, the battery capacity inside of our unit.
“By using these batteries, we can not only store additional energy, but provide energy on demand at utility scale. So, we can regulate big spikes in power consumption from the grid, especially when electric vehicles are charging,” he added.
Smart city solutions drive progress towards net zero.
As the company enters the next round of funding, Omniflow plans to explore further applications for the smart pole. Solutions that drive progress towards net zero and improve the urban landscape, while demonstrating added commercial value to cities and organisations focused on digital transformation.
energy savings compared with regular street lighting
savings compared with standard LED
Omniflow installation reported energy savings of >90%