London Underground Internet of Things – The Truth about Sensors

January 29, 2015
by Alex Tough

“We wanted to help rail organisations like London underground modernise the systems that monitor its critical assets, everything form escalators and lifts  to CCTV and communications networks.”

The London Underground is one of the world’s oldest public transportation systems. Until recently, it was also an organizational mess. Duties for repairs and maintenance were spread among a host of separate divisions that didn’t communicate with each other, leading to disasters like a 1987 fire in Kings Cross station that killed 31 people. Transport for London have now installed The London Underground Internet of Things (IoT), they have been working with contractors to install network-enabled sensors in their CCTV (security camera) systems, escalators, PA loudspeakers, air conditioning systems, and subway tunnels that allow central systems to manage, monitor, and automate individual tasks. The smart devices, which run on a Microsoft Azure Intelligent Systems Services backend, were installed in the Underground by telecom firm Telent and sensors developer CGI.


London Underground Internet of Things combined sensors are networked and linked to a main hub control room, this allows employees and control management teams to monitor the electronic systems within the tube system and deploy emergency maintenance teams accordingly. This allows for a more efficient and smoother system to flow through the London Underground, for example before the Internet of Things was installed if the escalators broke, they’d have to send a team of technicians out to fix it after it already broke, causing disruption to customers trying to get to where they want to in a hurry. Now with the London Underground Internet of Things installed all the electrical systems can be monitored from a control room, this can allow maintenance technician.

The Longer Term Benefits

Overall this means cost savings for Transport for London; Microsoft expects that the new system will make running their rail support network 30% cheaper while also improving customer service levels.As previously mentioned it will make the rail network monitoring more automated, detect equipment issues in real time before they cause any service problems, allowing for extra time for infrastructure planning.

For Microsoft, Telent, and CGI, this also means a valuable profit opportunity. Sensors on connected devices generate massive amounts of data when aggregated; Scott Gnau, the CEO of Teradata told Fast Company several months ago, during a separate interview, “A single functioning jet engine can generate up to terabytes of data per hour. Large, decentralized infrastructure projects like the London Underground are massive moneymaking opportunities for companies serving the smart device market.”

Ultimately London Underground Internet of Things is being watched from all over the world, big corporations and cities across the globe who want to implement this technology for their own advantages will be closely monitoring this new technology for the potential benefits and drawbacks.