Manchester’s IoT demonstrator omits built environment expertise

A consortium led by the Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has been awarded £10m from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to develop the UK’s first Internet of Things (IoT) city demonstrator.

Named CityVerve, the research and development project aims to demonstrate applications of the IoT at scale across a city region. Manchester’s bid was chosen from 22 entries from cities and enterprises across the UK.

IoT technologies and services are being planned in four key areas: healthcare; transport; energy and environment; and culture and community. Plans include talkative bus stops and a network of sensors in parks and along commuter routes to encourage people to walk and cycle.

But the 24-strong group does not contain any companies representing the built environment, despite attempts to engage the industry in the Digital Built Britain strategy.

In a video interview with Infrastructure Intelligence published late last month, BIM Task Group chairman Mark Bew issued a call to arms for construction companies to take ownership of the “smart city” agenda.

In the interview, Bew said: “I think construction has a massive opportunity to take the smart city market. We are the only organisations that have all the data.”

Rafael Cuesta, head of development and innovation at Transport for Greater Manchester, explained to BIM+ that lack of companies from the construction sector in the consortium was due to the fact that none had approached the group to be involved. 

Cuesta said: “We ensured that we had the key industry partners Cisco and BT on board and then we were approached by other companies that wanted to be involved in the project.”

Alongside the LEP, the other participants in the project are: Manchester City Council; Cisco Systems; BT; Manchester Science Partnerships; the University of Manchester; Manchester Metropolitan University; Asset Mapping Ltd; Clicks and Links; Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS; Future Everything CIC; Kiltr; OCF; Ordnance Survey; PrismTech; Republic of Things; SatSafe; SAP; Siemens; Smartgateways; Sparta Technologies; Spica Technologies; and Transport for Greater Manchester.

Along with the creation of a UK IoT Centre of Excellence in Manchester, to be located at Manchester Science Partnerships’ city centre campus, the project will consist of:

Management of chronic respiratory conditions – A “biometric sensor network” which will help improve responses to patients’ conditions and improve how local healthcare services work.

Community wellness – A network of sensors positioned in parks, along commuter and school routes, will track the progress of individuals and teams competing against each other for physical activity and fun.

Talkative bus stops – CityVerve will convert “flag and pole” bus stops into safe places with location-based services, sensors/beacons, mobile apps and intelligent digital signage. 

Smart lighting – Manchester, like many cities, is seeing a growth of traffic and congestion. To reduce car use, alternative forms of transport need to be attractive and safe. Smart lighting, in addition to connected street lighting, will help address this.

Bike sharing – The Manchester Corridor through-route will soon become bus and bike only. Bike sharing schemes can be expensive to install and maintain, and so an alternative is to use Internet of Things-enabled bikes in a crowd-sourced and maintained, secure bike sharing service. It will also include “e-cargo” bikes to make “last-mile” deliveries on the Corridor.

Smart air-quality monitoring – Street furniture and connectivity infrastructure such as lamp posts and street cabinets on the Manchester Corridor will be used to monitor 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.

I think construction has a massive opportunity to take the smart city market. We are the only organisations that have all the data.– Mark Bew, chairman, BIM Task Group

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