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Manchester bags £10m smart city prize in government contest

Manchester’s CityVerve project scoops the £10m jackpot in the government’s smart city and internet of things competition

CityVerve, a Manchester-based project aimed at improving services for city residents using internet of things (IoT) networks and smart city technology, has been named the winner of the government’s £10m Internet of Things Cities contest.

The competition, which was jointly run by the government and Innovate UK, formed part of a wider £40m commitment to the IoT, announced by George Osborne in March 2015.

The project, which is led by the Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), was chosen from 22 entries involving 34 cities around the UK. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said CityVerve was selected because of its “ambition, scale, co-ordination across the public and private sector, and potential for success.”

CityVerve is exploring a number of applications of IoT technology around Manchester in areas such as health and social care, public safety, transport and environmental monitoring.

Talkative bus stops

Some of the applications it will explore include talkative bus stops – traditional “flag and pole” bus stops reconfigured with location-based services, sensors and beacons, mobile apps and intelligent digital signage – with the aim of letting people check in to a bus stop and let the operator know they are waiting.

Also on the agenda is a gamification network of sensors in parks and along commuter and school routes to track the progress of individuals competing against one another for physical activity and fun. Already underway is the Great Space Race Challenge for Manchester residents to walk to the Moon.

Elsewhere, CityVerve will enable a biometric sensor network to improve responses to patients with chronic respiratory conditions, set up smart lighting systems, run an IoT-enabled bike sharing scheme and monitor air quality.

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Digital economy minister Ed Vaizey said: “The project will bring real benefits to people who live and work in Manchester, one of our Northern Powerhouse cities.

“The UK’s tech sector is renowned for its creativity, as well as pioneering research and development. The Manchester project will help the UK to be a world leader in the adoption of internet of things technologies and inspire others around the world to create smarter cities.”

Manchester City Council leader Richard Leese said the lessons that will be learned by CityVerve in Manchester could be readily applied across the UK and beyond.

“The pioneering work Manchester is doing on devolution, finding innovative ways to respond to local needs and priorities, makes us the perfect testbed for this work,” said Leese.

“Our plans are firmly focused on creating the conditions for economic growth and helping connect people with the opportunities created – whether that’s helping them to monitor their own health to help avoid preventable illness or improving transport information to help them move around the city more easily.”

Breaking down IoT barriers

Through its work in Manchester, CityVerve will also be looking at how to bring down the barriers that exist to successfully applying IoT technology in a smart city, including governance, security and data compliance, user trust, replicability, scalability and return on investment.

It hopes to explore the combination of the technology and business model innovations it will develop with the new powers and responsibilities that Manchester is to receive under the devolution plan.

To accomplish these goals, a demonstrator lab will be set up in the Corridor Manchester innovation district. The area is already home to a 30,000-strong knowledge sector workforce and more than 70,000 students.

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