Is data key to delivering a Smart City?

In this latest Peterborough DNA blog post, Ray Hooke, City Intelligence Lead at Peterborough City Council looks at why data is key in creating a citizen focused smart city and some of the initiatives which will shape Future Peterborough.

If you were to ask 100 people, “What is a smart city?” you would be likely to get 100 different answers, demonstrating that it means different things to different people. Google ‘What is a smart city’ and Wikipedia will tell you “A smart city is an urban development vision to integrate multiple information and communication technology (ICT) and Internet of Things (IoT) solutions in a secure fashion to manage a city’s assets – the city’s assets include, but are not limited to, local departments’ information systems, schools, libraries, transportation systems, hospitals, power plants, water supply networks, waste management, law enforcement, and other community services. The goal of building a smart city is to improve quality of life”.  If improving quality of life for a city’s citizens, it kind of makes sense that when shaping, or attempting to shape a smart city, that these same people are involved in deciding what “Smart” means for their city.

For me, a smart city means three things. Smart connected citizens, smart connected services, and smart connected places and approach which is being delivered across Peterborough right now.

Peterborough is leading the UK in creating a globally recognised Smart City, being awarded World Smart City 2015.  Its smart city programme. Peterborough DNA, has been running since 2013, when the city won £3 million pounds to test ‘smart’ ideas as one of the four UK Future City demonstrators.  Peterborough aims to implement growth through innovation and sustainability through interlinked end goals and bottom up collaboration. Sounds broad, but it is the mechanics that underpin  the thinking that is giving the city the recognition that it deserves.

The Peterborough DNA programme delivers a citizen focused approach through collaboration, innovation, information and digital solutions.  An approach demonstrated in four key project areas:

  • Smart Fengate –Which tests solutions in a specific geographical business area of the City; generating collaboration for future sustainability and measuring impacts while developing a Circular Economy master plan to drive long term sustainability.
  • Innovation – Encouraging innovation – taking entrepreneurial ideas and making them happen. The Peterborough Innovation Pool aims to identify and solve city challenges, provide new opportunities for local businesses and encourage innovation and entrepreneurial activity in the city.
  • Living Data – The Living Data project provides access to data and data support for the Peterborough DNA programme. It demonstrates the value of data and how it can be displayed and provided to encourage its use, improve decision making and promote engagement.
  • Open City – is all about digital, creative and ideas, people in Peterborough coming together to tackle specific local challenges by using data, with sufficient context that it can be understood and interpreted.

For me, data is the key to providing smart solutions which are focused around the needs of the citizen. Open City works to supplement the existing data management and analysis platforms Peterborough City Council has and Living Data works to display data in a way that encourages use and investigation by all, whether it be digital groups, businesses, decision makers, residents or Communities, hopefully making all of these groups Smart(er)…

For a City to be smart, that City needs to know what its needs are, where they are not smart, and where they can become smart. Local knowledge will only show part of the picture, Smart and Future cities will no doubt be defined in future by the data that they generate and use.

Government transparency and collaboration combined with openness of data is key to driving innovation. When you can see the area you live or work through a different set of eyes, it is much easier to identify gaps in service areas that need to become more liveable, sustainable and resilient.

The ability to collect data from a multitude of sources is essential to enable the analysis and predicative modelling that can drive and support further transformation, whilst real time data analysis, both pulling and pushing, will define how citizens interact with their environment.

Spatial analysis helps to provide those comprehensive views and understanding of areas in a way that is meaningful and intelligible to all, from those who can visualise a map to GIS Analytical experts.

Peterborough’s Living Data Portal, currently in its fledgling stages, provides a range of accessible datasets brought to life by the power of an intuitive mapping system. By using location data from various sources, systems or governmental departments, GIS allows for greater understanding – allowing Cities to see the both “the woods, and the trees” –  At the end of the day, everything happens somewhere.