June 2018

CityVerve Marketplace, 2 years in a day

Two and a half years ago, Manchester was selected by Innovate UK to be the UK’s Smart City IoT Demonstrator to show how Internet-connected technology and data can be used to transform the city.

This £16m project awarded to Manchester as the result of a successful bid, involved 20 partners from the public, corporate, SME and academic worlds forming a network of dedicated individuals whom shaped the demonstrator, which focused on the unique Oxford Road Corridor area of Manchester City Centre.

Today marked the end of the project which saw the outcomes brought together at one event. The partners showcased the results of two and half years of hard work and collaboration, on what is arguably Manchester’s highest profile Smart Cities Projects.

The five key themes of the CityVerve project have been identified as follows:

Building a truly open platform – CityVerve’s ‘platform of platforms’ treats the city as a living breathing organism by giving it a technology layer that acts as a central nervous system; smartly supporting and connecting independent systems and applications.

Building use cases – Their use cases were designed to specifically meet the needs and challenges of Manchester’s citizens. The CityVerve project has been needs-driven and benefit led, with its focus on 4 thematic areas: Health and Social Care, Energy & Environment, Travel & Transport and Culture & the Public Realm.

Community engagement – All CityVerve use cases have been developed through a “bottom-up” approach, ensuring applications are real and relevant to local citizens. CityVerve has aimed to demonstrate how technology can reignite the connections that turn a neighbourhood into a community.

Open innovation project – CityVerve has run open calls and events offering challenges, opportunities and API’s to developers and innovators from all walks of life.

Evaluating the true impact of the project – Evaluation has been a core part of the project, as we set out to understand if theory translated into the real world. We continue to assess if desired results have been achieved and examine the commercial viability of use cases.

CityVerve’s Chair, Rowena Burns opened the event delivering a ‘helicopter view’ of the project and providing a high-level summary of the work achieved from the large deployment of IoT during the last two and a half years. Rowena attributed partnership working as a critical aspect of the success of this project, and stressed that the ‘richness’ is found in the 200 or so use cases. Rowena stressed that it is in fact the learning from the project which has been extremely valuable, and ended the introduction positively by stating that the amount of trust built amongst the partners during this time has created a solid foundation that will enable the city to continue to collaborate, innovate and promote debate to secure CityVerve’s legacy.

Sir Richard Leese followed with an overview of CityVerve from a city perspective. It was noted that due to Manchester’s size, it is important to work smart and be a smart city; something which can be realised through CityVerve.

Last year, 29% of space in the city was taken up by tech companies, overtaking companies in the finance sector for the first time. This changing landscape provides an opportunity to use tech to enhance people’s lives by finding real life solutions, alongside the changes and ambitions demonstrated by younger people.

Sir-Richard discussed some of the challenges that IoT can potentially provide a solution for such as, energy efficiency, enabling people to manage some of their own health needs, and the overall shift in the way people are now living as a result of changing times and behaviours e.g. the way we travel, and the way we integrate our social lives and professional lives. Referring to Our Manchester Strategy, he spoke about how we can empower communities to contribute to solutions, moving from a needs-based approach to a more asset-based one.

Echoing the close of Rowena’s introduction, Sir-Richard agreed that the partnership should continue and that the innovation that has happened continues to grow with the support of Government.

Following the introductions from Rowena Burns and Sir Richard Leese, a series of thematic talks from the leaders across the partnership:

Energy and Environment

Bev Taylor provided an overview of how CityVerve can address some of the big energy and environment challenges the city faces over the next 2-3 decades such as potential food and water shortages, population increases and climate change.

Manchester is aiming to become a carbon neutral city some time in 2030’s. The ambition was initially for 2050 however after reviewing the timeline leaders recognised they needed to act much sooner.

Alongside international and national interventions to climate change such as, the UK’s 2008 Climate Change Act, Manchester’s ambition to build a smart city where buildings have very low/zero carbon and are 100% clean energy, amongst other interventions such as, zero waste and electric transport could be realised through CityVerve, as some of the use cases have demonstrated. They include Building Retrofit, Smart Facilities Management, Workspace Occupancy and Smart Cleaning to name but a few.

Health & Social Care

Carmel Dickinson – BeeActive is a step-count mobile phone application that incentivises users to increase their daily activity through gamification and nudges.
The app has the capability to set missions for users based on location and activity, alongside generic and personal ‘nudges’.

Successes from the project included the city exploration element and the ability for users to set missions for others and become ‘a games master’. Carmel also spoke about the challenges and lessons learned. In the future, TfGM will be partnering with BeeActive to deliver a walking/fitness app.

Another use case is PlaceCal, which addresses the negative impact social isolation has on the health and wellbeing of the elderly.  By linking up libraries, community events, groups and all associated data from various sources, PlaceCal is able to provide a social calendar for socially isolated residents in their community.  GP’s are now using PlaceCal to help patients and so far, the project has engaged 352 users with over 4,000 online activities. In the future, PlaceCal hopes to open this up to other cities.

The Augmented Neighbourhood Team demonstrates how Digitally integrated interventions can provide a quicker service and increased independence for the elderly.  Examples include the introduction of smart technology such as, home sensors to monitor behaviours and smart videos in nursing homes that allow the team to contact a professional digitally.

Travel & Transport

This theme focused on delivering more efficient, reliable and attractive public transport, reducing congestion and enhancing public safety.

Simon Warburton referred to Transport for Greater Manchester’s 2040 Strategy which seeks to achieve seamless mobility and sustainability. The aim is for a fully integrated transport network to cope with the increasing demand for travel and connectivity in a growing city, where the population, at 3 million inhabitants, is the highest population levels ever recorded in GM.

Some of the use cases included the City Concierge, a wayfinding service which enables users to make informed choices regarding the way they travel.

The increase in cycling take-up in the city as a mode of travel has led to the next generation of cycle sharing, for example, the Mobike cycle hire scheme. Through the development of IoT technology connected to bicycles, another use case was developed looking at patterns an
d behaviour of cyclists which has offered the potential for the city to optimise its investment in cycling infrastructure.

Culture & Public Realm

The event was closed by Drew Hemment of FutureEverything, who circled back to Rowena’s introduction by commending CityVerve and the great work it has achieved in being a truly citizen-focused project, with the benefits of all use cases highlighting how technology has a positive impact on the lives of the population in the city.

One of the use cases is a Local Communities Platform, enabling people within the Oxford Road Corridor area to access a public wi-fi network without the need to submit any personal data. The platform offers a high level of customisation, meaning that stakeholders can deliver their own hyperlocal content to a target audience.

There were also a number of art and cultural installations and exhibitions involving local communities, including Every Thing Every Time by artist Naho Matsuda, a project which is so successful it is launching at the Great Exhibition of the North 2018, and will also be exported to Hong Kong and Japan. There was also the Manchester Plinth, a collaboration between Sparta Digital and Manchester Metropolitan University, enabling users to access further information about assets or objects in the Oxford Road Corridor usually hidden inside of buildings, which incorporating augmented reality to enhance the visuality. There was also an exhibition called SuperGestures by artist Ling Tan, involving local school children, using wearable tech which lit up in the dark. The participants communicated gestures using their arms to an audience to describe how certain parts of the city made them feel.

In all, there is a great level of excitement for what has been achieved as part of the CityVerve demonstrator, Manchester is leading the way for Smart Cities going forward into the future. The enthusiasm for continuing the legacy and sharing best practise with others was evident throughout the event.

Last week, CityVerve released a short film called Manchester:City of Firsts. Directed by renowned writer and filmmaker, David Petch, the film celebrates how many of the world’s milestones have been created, and continue to be created, in Manchester. 

The film boasts over a dozen Mancunians and pays homage to innovations such as the first public library, passenger railway and football league, amongst many others.