The opening ceremony keynotes at this year’s EuroScience Open Forum (ESOF) – Europe’s biggest pan-science organisation – were dominated by calls for inclusivity and collaboration.
Bringing together more than 4,500 delegates from over 90 different countries, ESOF can certainly attest to supporting that kind of collective approach.
Every two years the show takes up residence in a different European city. For 2016, Manchester took up the mantle from previous host city Copenhagen.
Given both the conference’s location and collaborative atmosphere, it was fitting to see so many of CityVerve’s partner members out in force.
Cisco demonstrated some of the possible applications of smart cities technology, with a little help from a favourite childhood toy: Lego.
Ian Kennedy, vice president EMEAR, was on hand to give us a guided tour of the miniature smart city, showing how sensors can be applied to make use of parking space more efficient (and law-abiding), as well as how to keep citizens safe with responsive pedestrian crossings.
It seemed as though tours were something of dish du jour, in fact, as MSP took delegates around its Citylabs 1.0 facilities and announced plans to invest £60m in expanding the biomedical centre of excellence. A joint venture partnership with Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (CMFT), the creation of Citylabs 2.0 and Citylabs 3.0 will further strengthen the already-booming Innovation District.
Elsewhere, Sparta Digital has been employing its smart beacon technology to help guide visitors around the city.
As well as being honoured with hosting ESOF, Manchester is this year’s European City of Science. Sparta has worked with the University of Salford and other partners to develop the SciMan smartphone app which uses Sparta’s existing Sensoro beacon infrastructure in the city to deliver “digital encounters with science.”
The beacons trigger experiences depending on a person’s whereabouts in the city and their proximity to a beacon. These experiences include videos, never-before-seen views of the city, virtual tours and augmented reality experiences – including an AR Professor Brian Cox (a la Pokemon Go) hanging out outside the old Cornerhouse cinema.
The idea behind the app is to give those in the city the chance to stumble upon the city’s impressive past, present and future in science and technology.
Sparta will continue to use this technology within CityVerve to provide services to citizens – one example being to provide way-finding and travel information to people waiting at bus stops.
Using the technology – and some cleverly stitched together 360 degree photography – it’s possible to take remote tours of buildings to identify possible causes of energy inefficiency.
More so than simply mapping single buildings though, C+L technology also allows whole districts to be visualised – this means you can have a greater picture of how different buildings interact with and affect each other.
Users are able to collaborate and access energy usage data from maps and in 3D models using virtual reality. With a simple click of the VR pointer, it’s possible to see how much energy each building is using and how that relates to other facilities in the local area.
This solution is currently in play as part of the DIMMER project, also based in the Manchester Corridor, and will be applicable to CityVerve as it develops.
An open approach to data such as this is key, and was a returning feature of conversations we had with partners throughout the day.
BT’s open data hub is at the heart of CityVerve, and Professor Davies spoke on a panel at the conference about the new technological and non-technical challenges – and opportunities – involved with the interaction between big data and IoT technologies.
Ultimately, he told us, he’s excited by the win-win nature of smart city initiatives and CityVerve in particular – and the ways in which open data can underpin this.
“Local authorities face budget challenges and smart city technologies offer the chance to do more with less,” he said. “Citizens benefit from a more efficient city and range of applications that can help them in their daily lives across many areas: transport, air quality, reduced energy usage – the list goes on…”