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Delivering a global blueprint for smart cities

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Richard Elliott, head of policy, partnerships and research at Manchester City Council, and Nick Chrissos, head of innovation and project delivery director at CityVerve, explain how the innovative ‘citizen-centred’ project aims to understand and tackle what matters to the city and its citizens. The concept of a smart city is nothing new – it’s been a source of fascination in pop culture for years. The idea of data powering a civic movement that changes the way citizens experience cities has always been admired. Imagining what a smart city could look like and deliver to its inhabitants is one thing. CityVerve is interested in making it a reality for the people of Manchester.

Led by Manchester City Council, CityVerve is the smart city Internet of Things demonstrator, which unifies the forces of 21 organisations from across the public, corporate, SME and academic worlds, to focus on ‘The Corridor’, in Manchester – where the city’s two universities, leading hospitals and business clusters are located – and create endless possibilities for the people that live and work there. Genuine appetite for collaboration across the public and private sectors, and a shared enthusiasm to redefine ‘smart’ in the sense of delivering a needs-driven, benefit-led and tech-enabled solution for the city is what brings CityVerve’s consortium together. The project is coupling some of the brightest minds and innovative uses of technologies, aiming to understand and tackle what matters to the city and its citizens.

With this in mind, CityVerve will deliver complementary services, which will allow our four key areas – transport and travel; health and social care; energy and environment; and culture and public realm – to work in tandem. For this to happen we had to make sure that genuine interest and enthusiasm to collaborate was rooted at the heart of the consortium. We wanted to go further than connecting smart objects within the city. This is why we grounded the project on a strong partnership that encourages organisations from both the public and private sectors to collaborate effectively. After all, what drives the city is its inhabitants. The CityVerve project isn’t about the streets, buildings or individual enterprises – it is about the people. This citizen-centered ‘bottom-up’ approach allows us to develop technologies that will capture the unique needs of Manchester and its citizens and have a real impact on the way people live, work, travel and play.

Over the next couple of years, we are planning to create and deliver a number of user cases, which will be implemented across the four key areas. Innovative implementations such as a connected bus stop that will allow citizens to ‘check-in’ to their location, and consequently alert bus operators of a demand for the service, are among the planned deployments of the project. Smart city projects from all around the world have undoubtedly demonstrated the potential of such technologies already. However, what we recognised as a common limitation is the way smart applications were linked together. With CityVerve, we want to break these silos and take a different approach. This is why, instead of trying to collect data from multiple platforms, we rely on what we call the ‘platform of platforms’ – a unifying layer, which works as a secure ‘catalogue’ that can unite and analyse the communication between the connected applications.

This platform enables an intelligent collection, interpretation and use of data that will truly connect a city like never before, encouraging both local communities and businesses to get involved. In essence, our open innovation platform will connect the unconnected to support better healthcare, transport and education, and more engaged and empowered citizens.  We are only at the beginning of an exciting transformation, which will continue over the next two years. As new technology is implemented, we encourage more citizens and businesses to get involved in the CityVerve project and help the development of a smarter, innovative, inspiring city of Manchester.

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