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60-second guide to MK:Smart – Milton Keynes, a smart city

Paul GarnerBy Paul Garner, Head of Future Business Technology Research, BT's Technology, Service and Operations division

Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire is one of the UK's best examples of a smart city. In this 60-second guide, we provide an overview of the MK:Smart project and its main aims.

What is MK:Smart?

MK:Smart is a collaborative, smart city initiative, which aims to develop innovative solutions to support economic growth in Milton Keynes. It also aims to explore the practical issues associated with the creation and support of an 'Internet of Things' (IoT) ecosystem.

The £16m project is part-funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and is led by The Open University. BT is the largest industrial partner. The project was launched in January 2014 and will run until the end of June 2017.

What are the potential benefits of smart city services?

Smart city services have the potential to improve lives and conserve resources. Examples include: reduced congestion, pollution and consumption of energy and water; more efficient and cost-effective council services; and the stimulation of economic growth.

In MK:Smart, the initial application concepts include:

  • city motion map;
  • smart energy usage;
  • smart water usage;
  • air quality monitoring;
  • city planning;
  • smart home;
  • waste management; and
  • smart parking.

How is the success of MK:Smart being measured?

Success is being measured on the basis of various outcomes, including job creation, economic growth, as well as reductions in transport congestion and energy and water usage.

What is an IoT ecosystem?

Figure 1 shows an example of an IoT ecosystem. At a high-level, many IoT applications are based on similar functions: collecting information from sensors and data sets; interpreting the data (in context); and making decisions to deliver positive outcomes.

Stakeholders in the ecosystem may take one or more roles: data/information provider; application developer; analytics service provider; platform provider; and end user (of the applications).

Where does the data come from?

City-relevant data can come from numerous sources. For example, sensors to do with: traffic congestion; vehicle telemetry; air quality; car park usage; energy usage; water usage; water levels; weather conditions; etc. Other information can include satellite images, demographic data sets, etc.

Generic IoT ecosystem

Figure 1. Generic IoT ecosystem        

What does the data hub do?

The data hub helps solve one of the key problems in IoT ecosystems: How to bring together the wide range of data and make this available for analysis and application development while, at the same time, addressing commercial concerns such as data ownership, security and trust, privacy, performance and monetisation.

The data hub:

  • acquires sensor data;
  • enables developers to search for data to use in their own applications;
  • provides an application development environment;
  • provides shared computing and IT resources;
  • enables apps and analytics to run close to the data to maximise peformance; and
  • provides a service management environment and the ability to monetise the information exchange. 

The MK Data Hub is the key technical infrastructure component of MK:Smart. It was created by BT and The Open University. The success of the project depends on it so it is housed in dual sites for resilience.

Is the data hub being used in other smart city projects?

MK:Smart logoWe're also helping Manchester become a smart city. Manchester's CityVerve smart city initiative won a £10m Government-led technology competition in December 2015. The 2-year project kicked off in July and our data hub will be at the heart of it. It will be based on some of the same technology as the MK:Smart data hub but we'll be extending its capabilities to provide a data platform with a focus on the management of travel and transport in Manchester.

All-in-all, our growing smart city expertise is winning us new projects and giving us a prominent role in creating guidelines for the world's smart cities of tomorrow.

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