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Manchester kicks off CityVerve Project



Smart city initiative focuses on connectivity and data from IoT devices in ‘corridor’ south of centre

Manchester’s smart city initiative goes live today with the project management team officially beginning its operations and looking to focus the project on a 2km ‘corridor’ running south from the centre to the Manchester Science Park.

The move precedes a formal launch of the two-year CityVerve Project planned for 12 July, and brings together Manchester City Council, the Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership and networking company Cisco International at the head of a 20-strong partnership of public and private sector organisations.

It is aimed at developing the use of internet of things (IoT) technology in healthcare, transport, energy and environment, and culture and community.

Prize winner

Last December the proposal for the project emerged as the winner of the £10 million funding prize in the competition staged by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and Innovate UK to develop IoT technology for city services.

The partners in the project are providing an addition £6 million on a non-profit basis. They include Manchester Metropolitan University, the University of Manchester, Manchester Science Partnership, Transport for Greater Manchester, BT, Siemens and a dozen smaller companies that specialise in IoT technology.

Nick Chrissos (pictured), head of innovation technology for Cisco in the UK and Ireland, told UKAuthority that a core element of the project will be the creation of a single platform for the connectivity of all the devices used and to provide access to the data they collect.

This will provide a foundation for the development of 10 use cases of IoT technology, including air quality monitoring, bike sharing, smart lighting, ‘talkative bus stops’ and networks of sensors in parks to track people’s physical activity.

Other elements of the project include: a two-year hackathon, led by Manchester University, aimed at identifying 30 applications to receive £10,000 of funding each; a citizen engagement strand; and an evaluation of the impact on citizens and the local economy along with the return on investment.

“We hope to be able to demonstrate the first results in about six months,” Chrissos said. “One of the requirements of the project is to demonstrate its overall impact in the first two years.

“It involves some very ambitious ideas, but it’s not quirky new technology – it’s all been proven in other smart cities.”

Linking networks

Chrissos told the audience at techUK’s Foundation of Smart Cities conference: “It is a huge task to connect all the different networks together, and the idea of building a network that can go everywhere is impossible. The idea of linking networks together on a platform is what we are striving for.

“We also wanted to security as a policy from the bottom up to be a key part. It’s something you cannot retrofit and it’s very expensive, so it’s there as a baseline, at the sensor level, the data level and the application level.

“But we’re not building a single database or single store for data. We’re creating a platform of platforms, providing an integration layer for all the other sources.”

He added that the corridor will provide a strong test of any technology, as 60,000 workers and 70,000 students pass through it on most days.

The nine-strong project management team for CityVerve will work with a steering committee and general assembly of all the partners.

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