Over a series of blog posts, we’ll be introducing you to the themes of the CityVerve project and the use cases we’re developing within these key focus areas. In this installment, TfGM’s Simon Warburton takes us through the work being done on the travel and transport theme.
A city is nothing if you can’t move around it.
The world’s leading cities – from London to Singapore – all recognise the importance of connectivity in promoting economic growth and supporting flourishing communities.
And these world leaders now see the growing value in smart implementation of technology to help guide citizens around complex urban environments.
In the UK, and in an historic city like Manchester, we want to embrace innovation to get the most out of our transport systems and to support the city’s growth without unnecessary traffic congestion and air pollution.
Since winning the initial Innovate UK bid process, we’ve been working together with our other CityVerve partners to develop a number of solutions that will improve Manchester’s travel and transport offering for people living in and visiting the city.
As Manchester’s population continues to grow, we’ll find ourselves living in an ever-denser environment. We need to consider how to balance this, and develop solutions that work for everyone. That means making sure we’re promoting mobility choices to all of our citizens.
Technology has a key role to play in this. Whether in the way we pay for services or how we find out about travel options, it’ll be crucial in terms of guiding people to a more sustainable set of travel choices.
More than that, though, we want to use technology to reimagine what our transport systems can be and do for people and businesses as Manchester evolves.
Rather than simply people moving to services, can we make our services more flexible in adapting to individual passenger needs? What other purposes can our bus or tram stops serve, beyond simply being a place for alighting or departing?
With CityVerve, we want to investigate the vast possibilities of how people will navigate the cities of the future.
Your guide to the city
Work on our travel and transport use cases is already well underway.
The ‘City Concierge’ use case aims, as its name suggests, to provide people with tailored information about their journey and surroundings while they explore the city – whether they live in Manchester or are just paying a visit or conducting business here.
Using mapping data that goes right down to ‘street furniture’ level, this way-finding service will provide a level of accuracy previously unseen – and of particular value for those with limited accessibility too (such as the those people with mobility needs, or parents with pushchairs).
It’s a digital solution to a real-world problem, incorporating AR and wearable technology to help people experience more of the city around them as they move from place to place.
We’ve already experimented with this, using Sparta Digital’s Buzzin app to provide visitors with information and offers at last year’s Pride celebrations and, more recently, a Pokemon Go-style game during January’s Chinese New Year festivities.
Exploring new destinations
Elsewhere, we’re in the process of installing sensors and smoothing out the details for several other real world applications.
Our work will enhance bus stops to reflect and enrich the environment and communities in which they are located, personalise tram travel with real-time data collation, monitor city traffic to reduce pollution and better understand how our road networks are used.
IoT-based telematics devices will allow us to explore how we can use data to advance road safety for drivers of all ages, as well as cyclists and community transport. Connected sensors, meanwhile, will help us improve the performance and efficiency of emergency services fleets as they respond to calls around the city. All in all making movement around the city a safer experience for people of all ages.
Of course, what makes all of this so vital is that transport touches everything within a city. The examples we are exploring are designed to improve people’s lives without them even knowing it; it’s not just a case of getting people from A to B, but reimagining what else can be achieved along the way.
In this way, transport integrates and links with almost every other use case across the project, whether that be providing access to a newly-connected building, helping people with COPD avoid more heavily-polluted areas, or highlighting must-see sites in the district.
By sharing transport data with partners from right across the project, we’ll soon build an idea of how our work can contribute to goals within the other key themes of the CityVerve programme.
When we first began this project, many of the ideas being shared around use cases existed only in a conceptual state. In the time since, we’ve seen these ideas become a reality and part of a concerted movement towards developing genuinely futuristic solutions that other cities around the world will pick up on.
When you work in the transport sector, you’re used to helping people join the dots. With CityVerve, we’re doing this on a whole new scale.