Smart Cambridge makes rapid progress

Dan Clarke, programme manager at Cambridge County Council, explains how Smart Cambridge has evolved since it was established in August 2015 by the local city deal, and reveals what’s coming next.

Cambridge has made it into Britain’s top 10 smartest cities for the first time this year, showing the rapid progress of the innovative Smart Cambridge programme in just over two years.

The city jumped straight to 10th place in the 2017 Huawei UK Smart Cities Index report due to its pioneering work using data and emerging technologies to find smart ways to tackle transport, air quality and other urban challenges.

Smart Cambridge is commended for its collaborative work in cutting-edge research, setting up an intelligent City Platform (iCP) to collate real-time data, establishing a LoRa network and supporting innovative Internet of Things (IoT) applications.

The Greater Cambridge Partnership – the local delivery body for the city deal – provided an initial investment of £300,000 in the Smart Cambridge programme to develop smart city initiatives that help improve the economic strength and sustainability of the area.

A programme board and advisory group provide governance and guidance for the work of Smart Cambridge, bringing together local councils, tech businesses, university researchers and partner organisations.

Working closely with the University of Cambridge, the Smart Cambridge iCP has been established to provide a common platform for a variety of IoT-based projects. The partners have also set up a city-wide LoRa low-power network for demonstration IoT projects. Open APIs will soon be added to the network to enable a wider range of organisations to access and use the network, managed by the university.

The combination of local authority and university initiatives provides a strong basis for future exploitation of the platform to improve city services, with further funding now available for projects to address transport, housing, energy and health improvements.

One of the most extensive of the initial projects on the network is an air quality monitoring system for the city. Twenty air quality sensors were added to the network to provide more granular information on city pollution levels. Work is now being done with the university to explore how this might be extended to a wider range of sensors including traffic monitoring and providing real-time bus and train information.

Smart Cambridge publishes data through a countywide partnership, Cambridge Insight, an open platform for sharing data and a research knowledge base for the Cambridgeshire area. The links with the University of Cambridge are particularly important for expanding the use of data for city improvement. The university is providing computing, networking and analytic resources, and is leading the way in the investigation of the use of machine learning and predictive analytics on city data.

Improving transport in the region, encouraging people to travel sustainably and reducing city congestion are important focus areas for Smart Cambridge, which is exploring a range of projects including visualising useful travel data, developing a unified ticketing scheme, the potential role of autonomous vehicles, and the feasibility of new rapid transit solutions and how these might integrate with emerging technologies.

Cambridge is building a super cycleway network and expanding bus services and park & ride sites. It is also aiming to improve the management and use of on-street and workplace parking through smart technologies. 

The Connecting Cambridgeshire programme aims to improve the region’s digital infrastructure with better broadband, free public wi-fi and wider mobile coverage. Combined with commercial provision, the fibre broadband roll-out has now reached over 95% of homes and businesses across the county. Connecting Cambridgeshire has also provided free public wi-fi in more than 120 public buildings.

Top image © Tom Reville




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