Cambridge is a smarter city following GeoSpock’s recently-announced partnership with Smart Cambridge.
There’s never been any doubt about the intellectual leverage, but in terms of using digital connectivity to solve the city’s transport woes, progress has been more glacial. Now the dumb city approach – business as usual – is no longer viable, and becoming a smart city is not merely aspirational: with pollution, congestion, and assorted financial challenges, it’s essential.
Dan Clarke is strategy and partnership manager at Smart Cambridge, and took part in the discussions with GeoSpock, whose big data platform generates insights harvested from urban digital infrastructure.
“It was a standard procurement,” Dan says of the deal. “We’ve subscribed to the platform for a year, and we’ve now done a transport data audit which has given us lots of data on, for instance, air quality. The data wasn’t being used to its full potential so using the GeoSpock platform [means] they can see the correlation between different bits of data. So it could be the link between crime statistics and street lighting… we’re just beginning to experiment.”
How will it work over time?
“We map where the street lights are and put the crime statistics over the top of that and do further investigations from there. The GeoSpock platform is not connected directly to street lights but it can help address some of the challenges.”
When will the street lights be linked up?
“At the moment the street lights can be turned on and off, and they can be dimmed. They’re on a PFI (private finance initiative). We’ve had discussions with Balfour Beatty [Balfour Beatty runs the lighting network in Cambridge] about how to go forward.”
So where does GeoSpock come in?
“GeoSpock doesn’t have direct access to the data,” Dan says. “We collate the data and upload it into their platform. The plan is the data will come through us. We’ve worked with the university to build a real-time platform, it’s been operating a couple of years – the Intelligent City Platform, which the university built for us. They work with us to get the data to put it into the platform.”
“Access to the data goes through us. There’s no personal data, it’s all anonymised. They index it. The prime reason is we then have data visualisation and analysis. Progress will take time but we think the opportunity is there. We’ll be getting a much better view of how the city works and that will allow us to deliver efficiencies. If all goes well and we’re getting value, all well and good. It’s worth noting that GeoSpock is working with other cities but we’re the first to sign on to a commercial agreement.”
Richard Baker, CEO at GeoSpock, is delighted with the partnership.
“GeoSpock’s partnership with Smart Cambridge is now under way and is an integral part of furthering Cambridge’s smart city ambitions,” he said. “Our commercial alliance with the Greater Cambridge Partnership will democratise data from Cambridge’s physical assets to provide greater context to the needs of the city. The partnership aims to improve the lives of residents, businesses and visitors, by enabling the city’s stakeholders to make better decisions on matters, such as traffic flow improvements to environmental initiatives and the future planning of the city.
“The initiative will first see data on-boarded into GeoSpock’s platform as a service, which is run on Amazon Web Services Cloud, on which Smart Cambridge can share information for the benefit of staff and third-party organisations working on urban innovation projects. In the first year we plan to support the city by developing future planning initiatives. This partnership will provide an understanding of where Cambridge can benefit it citizens in the future – whether that’s improved traffic, reduced pollution or enhanced infrastructure.”
The use of GeoSpock’s big data platform is just one of many projects Smart Cambridge is also working on, including IoT infrastructure, autonomous vehicles, urban logistics and mobility as a service.
“We’re working on autonomous vehicles with a guided bus,” says Dan. “There’s no passengers just yet, just a test rig to be trialled in the summer, we’ll test with passengers next year.”
There’s also the Mill Road closure for two months from May 13 to July 8.
“We’ll be putting out sensors in Mill Road and the surrounding roads to assess the impact, measure air quality, and also pedestrian and cycling patterns,” says Dan.
Cambridge is gathering the resources for smart city status. It may take a while, there’s lots to be done, but once all the street sensors go in it won’t take long for the benefits to be felt.