Milton Keynes wins ‘smart city’ points

Frost & Sullivan report applauds city’s creation of single repository for public sector data

Milton Keynes has taken an important step towards the technical interoperability that can provide a foundation for smart cities, according to a new report on the subject.

Milton_Keynes_Centre_Queens_CourtAnalyst company Frost & Sullivan has highlighted the move in its Real-Time Cities Survey, which covers developments in 27 cities around Europe of which three – Milton Keynes, Bristol and Cambridge – are in the UK.

It says the effort to make use of new data sources to run cities more efficiently is a positive step, but that the benefits are limited by a focus on specific projects, such as traffic management, meeting carbon commitments and improving transport information.

This is keeping the data within organisational silos, and it needs more integration to give the movement more momentum and achieve long term aims around economic growth and sustainability.

Single repository

Sheridan Nye, principal analyst for information and communication technologies at Frost & Sullivan, told UKAuthority that Milton Keynes has made a move to overcome the problem in requiring that all public sector data should go into a single repository. This could support the development of smart city initiatives across a range of projects.

“Some integration is happening at certain pain points – combinations of street lighting and crime prediction data, road traffic management and waste collection reporting,” she said.

“But there is some tension between cities’ local priorities and application developers’ need for a market that will scale – across multiple applications and across cities worldwide.

“Some stakeholders take the view that technical interoperability should occur at the applications layer. Others believe the data layer is more appropriate. Accepted standards and open APIs (application programme interfaces) are required, underpinned by a consistent commitment to digitise public sector services.”

Nye said that Milton Keynes, along with Grand Lyon in France, also stands out for the steps it has taken in setting out clear governance rules.

“Ownership rights, terms of reuse, licensing agreements and privacy options must all be coded into processes that participants can trust,” she said.

Embracing innovation

The report is generally positive, saying that the cities surveyed have been “embracing open innovation” and experimenting with technologies such as 3D mapping and virtual reality to reduce the cost of urban planning.

A related report, Open Data Strategies for Real-Time Cities, focuses on four – Milton Keynes, Grand Lyon, Helsinki and Dublin – that are trying to stimulate growth through making their data freely available.

Nye said this creates plenty of opportunities for investors, but that: “Cites are saying they want suppliers to engage with local priorities rather than promote ‘one size fits all’, end to end solutions.

However, the danger is that the market fragments and vendors struggle to build economies of scale.”

 

Image: Milton Keynes Centre, Queens Court by Cnyborg. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons