Ingenious

21 January 2016 

Helping Manchester become a ‘Future City’

Manchester city scape

Talking bus stops and a crowd-sourced bike sharing scheme are just two of the exciting new Internet of Things (IoT) initiatives BT is currently working on in the City of Manchester.

The company is a member of a consortium which won a government-led £10 million competition to develop and roll-out ‘future city’ services in Manchester over the next two years.

Other partners in the project - known as CityVerve - include Manchester City Council, Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership and Cisco.

“CityVerve is all about using technologies like the Internet of Things to improve services for Manchester’s residents,” says John Davies, BT’s chief researcher. “And because devolution to the Great Manchester Combined Authority is encouraging and driving innovation in Greater Manchester, it’s a unique opportunity for BT to show what’s possible.”

BT is already seen as an IoT pioneer thanks to its groundbreaking smart city development work in Milton Keynes.

“We’ll be taking a great deal of what we’ve learned through the MK:Smart programme up with to Manchester,” explains John Davies.

‘Big Data’ expertise

“A perfect example would the award-winning, MK Data Hub. Created by BT this collects and distributes large-scale city data such as energy, transport and water via sensors. It makes it possible to implement radical new solutions for managing demand.”

“And the good news is we are building a brand new data hub for Manchester,” adds John.

Ideas for new innovative services for Manchester’s residents include more talkative bus stops.

CityVerve will convert ‘flag and pole’ bus stops into safe places with location-based services, sensors and beacons, mobile apps and intelligent digital signage. People will check-in to their bus stop and let bus operators know they are waiting for their service.

Another important area is health and wellness. For example, the project plans to set up a ‘biometric sensor network’ which will help improve responses to patients’ conditions and improve how local healthcare services work.

Clean air guide

Smart air-quality monitoring through street furniture and a connectivity infrastructure incorporating lamp posts and street cabinets will be used to gauge the city’s air quality at different heights and locations.

Information will be passed to those with health conditions and made generally available to support walking options and routes.

CityVerve will also establish a network of sensors positioned in parks, along commuter and school routes. These will track the progress of individuals and teams competing against each other for physical activity and fun. Examples include the ‘Great Space Race Challenge’ for Manchester residents to ‘walk to the moon’.

Critically, the CityVerve project will also look at ways to address the growth of traffic pollution and congestion by making alternative forms of transport more attractive and safer.

On your bike

Says John Davies: “Along with improved health services, more effective transport systems and services is a priority for the project. To encourage more cycling, for example, we’ll to introduce an Internet of Things enabled bike sharing service which will be maintained through crowd-sourcing.”

He concludes: “CityVerve is a set to be an excellent illustration of how technology can be used to underpin social change and make a better world. The citizens of Manchester can look forward to a healthier, greener, more efficiently run city