(Editor’s note: Two weeks ago, we were shocked and saddened to hear news of the terrorist attack at Manchester Arena. Out of respect for the injured and killed, and their families, Internet of Business held back from publishing this story on a council-led smart city initiative in Manchester. Following the One Love Manchester benefit concert this past Sunday, which has so far raised some £10 million for victims and their families, the time feels more appropriate to bring you a positive story from the city. We hope you agree.)
Manchester City Council has brought together 21 organisations in a smart city demonstrator programme it calls CityVerve. The organisations represent the public, corporate, SME and academic worlds.
The programme has a two-year remit and started back in June 2016, with the idea of showing how smart cities can transform people’s lives in a wide range of areas. Another goal is to publish case studies that can demonstrate this for both Manchester and other cities looking for a smarter approach.
The particular areas of interests to Manchester City Council are transport, energy and environment, health and social care, and culture and community. As well as improving the quality of life in these areas the aim is also to build business and jobs for Manchester citizens.
It is an ambitious programme, with a budget of £16 million. Nearly £10 million of this has come from Innovate UK, the Government body set up to support economic growth and innovation in the UK.
An impressive line-up
The array of organisations involved in CityVerve is wide ranging with an impressive number of big names involved.
Led by Manchester City Council, with Cisco, the partnership also consists of BT, Manchester Science Partnerships, Asset Mapping, Clicks and Links, Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, FutureEverything, CollectivWorks, Ordance Survey, PrismTech, Republic of Things, Satsafe, Smart Gateways, Sparta Technologies, Spica Technologies, Telensa, Transort for Greater Manchester, University of Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan University and Siemens.
The area at the centre of CityVerve is known as the Oxford Road Corridor. It includes Manchester Science Park and Citylabs campuses, Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan University, Royal Northern College of Music, Whitworth Art Gallery and St Mary’s Hospital as well as bars and shops, bus stops, traffic lights and cycle lanes.
A platform of platforms
A key aspect of CityVerve is the aim to build a ‘platform of platforms’ – a flexible, scalable architecture that will be able to unite the various themes and information elements that make up a city, rather than seeing them as separate clusters of technology. Data, systems and people will be connected at city-scale.
The concept is described as like a brain’s neural pathway – the more connections that are made, the smarter the city will become.
It is still early days for the programme, with the first deployments made in October last year. But Manchester City Council promises dozens of case studies which will benefit other cities in the UK and beyond.
Complexity brings its own challenges
Dr Chris Harding, director for interoperability at The Open Group, is excited about the ambitions of this programme. He told Internet of Business that it “allows different partners to use different platforms for accessing and/or providing services.”
But he warns of data management challenges ahead, telling us, “We don’t yet have established standards for platform interoperability. The Open Group’s Open Platform 3.0 initiative is working on this.”
“If there is sensitive data, which is almost certainly the case, then it is important to keep track of who owns it, who or what it is about, and who should be able to access it. Controlling access to sensitive data is much easier if each dataset stays on a single platform and is accessed there by other platforms, rather than being copied between platforms in piecemeal fashion.”