Milton Keynes Council exec: IoT benefits limited in public sector

Milton Keynes Council exec: IoT benefits limited in public sector

Public sector benefits of IoT are limited - Milton Keynes Council exec
Public sector benefits of IoT are limited - Milton Keynes Council exec

There are limitations on how the public sector can benefit from the Internet of Things (IoT), according to Sarah Gonsalves, head of policy and performance at Milton Keynes Council.

The council was part of the UK’s first city-wide, open-access demonstration network for IoT, dubbed the Future City Programme.

Gonsalves explained that Milton Keynes had been able to look into various different network technologies and ways in which it could deploy sensors because of government and European funding.

“We have been piloting and testing technologies and we appreciate that other public sector organisations haven’t had the benefit of doing this. If you don’t have the opportunity to pilot these things then you start from a difficult baselines because there is quite a lot of capital investment initially,” she told delegates at Capita’s Channel Shift Conference in London last week.

Gonsalves said that the firm has tested a lot of what she called ‘low-hanging fruit’.

“We’ve looked at putting sensors in our bins and trying to collect waste less often – but it’s not been as easy as you’d think, and the benefits were on quite a small scale,” she said.

Milton Keynes also deployed parking sensors in a bid to create a more effective parking system, but the council hadn’t provided compelling use cases to scale up these programs – Gonsalves said this was a huge challenge for the council.

What was more beneficial to the council was how it used IoT and digital technologies to benefit the city as a whole, and to stimulate growth in the digital sector.

“This involved us looking at how we could use IoT in terms of sustainable growth, and looking at how we can be modelling transport to reduce congestion in the city,” she said.

Indeed, this is similar to the approach taken by global internet firm Nominet.

“We have taken the approach of working with partners who have common aims of trying to understand how IoT is deployed and implemented in real conditions and assessing the benefit to the wider community,” Bryan Marshall, research fellow at Nominet R&D told Internet of Business.

This included working with initiatives like Oxford Smart city, he said, and this has enabled the company to focus on keeping costs down and being realistic about how IoT will be adopted by local authorities who really need to show value for money for local taxpayers.

“It makes you consider what the best technologies for a certain job are to keep deployment and backhaul costs down,” he said.

“It helped us craft our IoT tools technologies to help support this more realistic bottom-up and distributed approach, reducing complexity wherever possible. We’re starting to think along the lines of an ‘agile’ IoT and smart cities approach, where the cost of deployment and service is low, application building is easy and accessible, and flexibility to move with the changing city is high,” he added.

Related: Camden CIO: IoT can help councils to tackle big social care issues