Issue 8: January 2014

DATA'S THE WAY TO DO IT AS GLASGOW FAST FORWARDS TO THE FUTURE

By Michael McLaughlan, Programme Director, Glasgow Future Cities Demonstrator Programme

Michael McLaughlan, of Glasgow’s Future Cities Demonstrator project, explains how:

In January 2013, Glasgow was awarded a £24m prize by the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) to further its ambitions to be a world leading Future City. The TSB is the UK Government’s agency for innovation and in Glasgow it saw a city that it could work with to provide innovative solutions to the questions raised by the increasing urbanisation of the world’s population. It is estimated that by 2050 almost three quarters of the people on earth will be city dwellers.  How we deal with that rise in population, the waste and pollution it creates and the subsequent pressure on public services all need innovative solutions.

In Glasgow’s bid we offered to provide a large scale test bed to provide real solutions in a live operating environment. The themes were around health, transport, safety and the economy and our solutions, although particular to Glasgow, will resonate around the UK. They are solutions that are scalable and replicable and we are keen to open up our thinking and share our knowledge and experience with towns and cities across the UK and beyond.

A future city is a lot more than just a smart one.  A smart city has a good understanding of technology and uses it to join service providers together, allowing them to be more intelligent about how they provide services. At the core of a smart city’s thinking is integration and collaboration.

A future city is one that goes beyond that and really understands the role of the citizen and information intelligence in policy and decision making.  It uses data to generate valuable information that in turn becomes invaluable intelligence. It allows us to savour that knowledge and engage in a number of conversations with citizens. It does this in a way that empowers people by giving them access to this intelligence to allow us all to have an intelligent and informed conversation. It is about the data and crucially it is also about the citizens. Now here’s the rub, it’s really not about technology!

A future city is one that goes beyond that and really understands the role of the citizen and information intelligence in policy and decision making.

It is clear there is vast untapped potential in public data sharing.  Clever use of data can create huge benefits. As a society, we are generating more data than at any time in history. Digitisation has taken over the world and the quality and quantity of data have increased exponentially. Harnessing that knowledge can improve the lives of Glasgow’s residents, the environment and the economy.

There are reams and reams of data collected by private and public sector bodies but held in silos, it may not be readily accessible or even meaningful to the man or woman in the street.

Some of it is already available to the public but it can prove hard to find and even harder to make sense of.

Glasgow’s Future Cities Demonstrator programme aims to change that by creating an Open Data platform that allows us to capture hundreds and then thousands of data sets from public life.  In isolation, this data may be useful for the organisation collecting it.  However, by bringing it together, analysing the information and presenting it in a meaningful way, it has far greater potential for the public, business, decision-makers and academics to access and use for a variety of purposes.

One simple example of this is cities like Chicago, New York and San Francisco which already have similar open data platforms. Many new businesses have been created, apps and services have been designed and built, and lives have improved simply by having access to this open data. The Glasgow model will be richer, larger and more integrated with city systems and will bring even greater benefits to the city.

cities like Chicago, New York and San Francisco which already have similar open data platforms. Many new businesses have been created, apps and services have been designed and built, and lives have improved simply by having access to this open data.

The Future Cities Demonstrator team has identified an initial 200 data streams in the city on everything from energy use in schools to footfall in retail areas. This will eventually run into the thousands.

A significant part of the Future Cities Demonstrator is about collaboration, the integration of city systems and development of thinking that goes beyond technology platforms.

It shows how an integrated approach to technology use can increase economic competitiveness, provide a legacy of innovation and improved service delivery, bringing benefits that improve the quality of life for everyone in the city – benefits that will still be felt in the years and decades to come.
   
When we talk about Glasgow as a Future City we want to demonstrate that we understand Open and Big Data – we recognise the power of it - and more importantly we can harness it and use it to provide local solutions.

Data can show us clearly that things are happening (and often why they are happening) but that they are happening and therefore we can build analytical software that helps us predict future events based on that data.

This is long term thinking that challenges current assumptions.  It really is important to let the data speak for itself.  It may give us a different picture of what the problems are in the city.

These innovative demonstrator projects will help address issues such as health, safety and sustainability through the use of open data, predictive analytics, apps, visualisations and portals.

We have already built a prototype city management system in an open fashion so that people can access real time information through application interfaces.  These could enable car passengers to find an empty, off-street parking space on their smartphone as the driver arrives in the city, see real time traffic and travel information. A new City Operations Centre will allow us to manage the city from one dedicated room, with traffic, CCTV, incident management and city operations all integrated and controlled allowing the city to respond more effectively to the needs of its citizens.

Having a City Dashboard that draws down on the performance data we have available to us will enable people to find information on everything from air and noise pollution hotspots to flood warnings and bin collections. Others might be interested in gritting routes or weather alerts.  Basically people will be able to customise the information they want to receive and download it to their desktop or smartphone. You can even pop in to your local library and get the information on public computers.

Some of the other things we are doing include:

•    Improvements to the MyGlasgow phone app to enable users to receive feedback on the progress of a complaint or reporting of potholes, fly-tipping or graffiti.

•    Trials of new energy efficient street lights that could save the city council cash on energy and repair bills as well as cut emissions.  The 70,000 street lights in Glasgow also have the potential to be fitted with sensors to detect air or noise pollution or to monitor footfall.

•    The creation of a SmartGrid to reduce the need for expensive infrastructure work by enabling city building management systems to “talk” to each other electronically and share energy at peak times.

•    Working with democratic services to ensure our citizens have access to open, local data and intelligence to ensure open and transparent dialogue and decision making at a local level.

What we are trying to do in Glasgow goes significantly beyond what other Smart Cities have done.  We want to demonstrate the social, economic and health benefits of the programme.  We want other UK cities to learn from it and see how they can apply it to their own circumstances.

We are planning to hold an international conference in autumn 2014 to showcase the work we have done over the course of the Demonstrator.  We are at the beginning of something hugely exciting that has huge potential to transform Glasgow and put us at the forefront of innovative and smart cities not just in the UK but in Europe and beyond.


Michael McLaughlan is Programme Director of Glasgow Future Cities Demonstrator Programme



Websites:

http://futurecity.glasgow.gov.uk/

http://open.glasgow.gov.uk/

By Michael McLaughlan, Programme Director, Glasgow Future Cities Demonstrator Programme

Issue 8: January 2014

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