Agenda item

Smart Cambridge: Smart City Management Platform progress report

To consider the attached report.


The Executive Board:


(a)        NOTED the progress to date.


(b)        NOTED the forward plan for the delivery of the first phase. 


(c)        AGREED that Councillor Francis Burkitt and Professor Nigel Slater would lead on this project on behalf of the Executive Board.



Consideration was given to a report which provided the Executive Board with a progress update on the Smart City Management Platform, which formed part of the Smart Cambridge project.


Noelle Godfrey, Programme Director of Connecting Cambridgeshire, presented the report and reminded Members of the Board that the aim of the Smart City Platform was to collect, process and make available data to help improve transport and reduce congestion in Greater Cambridge.  It was emphasised that this project involved use of leading edge technology and as a result the very nature of its work was experimental.  She acknowledged that a vast amount of data already existed which could be collected, with the main problem being that it was neither joined up nor readily available for the public or professionals to use.  The Smart City Platform would therefore seek to resolve this problem by:


·         collecting transport and transport-related data from many existing and new sources;

·         combining and processing this data;

·         making this data readily available to the public, planners and other IT developers.


It was reported that work to date had proceeded well and that the first project stream was already underway and would be complete by April 2017, with a second commencing in January 2017 and scheduled for completion in April 2018.  A project plan and outline timescales were appended to the report. 


Noelle Godfrey referred to a presentation provided by Dr Ian Lewis, Director of Infrastructure and Investment at the University of Cambridge, which he gave to the Joint Assembly meeting on 7 July 2016.  A copy was appended to the report which provided an overview of the development of the Smart Cambridge Platform and the architecture associated with it.  The following approach to achieve the project’s objectives was noted:


·         informing travellers about their travel choices.  A portfolio of ‘apps’ for use by the public would emerge and be provided by the Smart Cambridge Platform itself through collaborative contributors in the region including the University of Cambridge and commercial partners;

·         supporting intelligent planning of the transport infrastructure.  The Smart Cambridge Platform was already collecting the data necessary for a detailed practical analysis of the impact of transport schemes and the richness of information would grow with time.  The University of Cambridge would also exploit this data for research analysis, which could benefit the region;

·         providing the framework within which the digitally connected city would evolve.  There was ongoing discussion regarding other sensor data that would inevitably become available in the region, from air pollution data to cycling and footfall sensors and other traffic data.  The platform was designed from the outset to accommodate additional sources as they became available.


Councillor Roger Hickford reported that the Joint Assembly had considered this report at its meeting on 7 July 2016 and that the officer recommendations had been overwhelmingly supported.  Members of the Assembly had questioned whether data could be sold the interested third parties and also questioned whether the relatively small amount of funding in the context of the City Deal programme placed any constraint on delivery of the project.  The Assembly had also agreed that communication of the key benefits of this project should be improved in order that people knew more about what was being proposed as part of this important piece of work.  Councillor Hickford highlighted that all Members of the Joint Assembly would be offered a demonstration of the data sets and a portal would be available in order to access the data.


Councillor Francis Burkitt recalled that £300,000 had been invested in this project, but noted from the financial monitoring report that none of this had been spent to date.  Noelle Godfrey confirmed that most of the expenditure was back-loaded in the project, with the early work packages including mainly preparatory work.  Some funding had been spent to date but this had not yet been billed.  In terms of the Assembly’s question regarding the level of funding being adequate to support the project, it was noted that funding for the project’s current plans was on track but that if the scope changed it be may necessary to consider further funding, which would be debated at the appropriate time.  Noelle Godfrey added that simply adding financial resource to a project did not always bring forward the best solutions.


Reflecting on the staffing resources allocated to the project, Councillor Burkitt sought clarification that 0.7 fulltime equivalents from two officers were working on this project, with support of other contributors such as the University of Cambridge.  Given the importance of this project, he was concerned about the risk this exposed the Board to and questioned whether enough officer resource was being allocated to the project.  Noelle Godfrey confirmed that dedicated officer time did currently equate to 0.7 fulltime equivalents but made the point that, although the project was lean,  it worked collaboratively and benefited from contributions from all City Deal partners and beyond.    


In answer to a question regarding the envisaged release date for the ‘app’, it was noted that the ‘app’ had to be released in a test format to better appreciate and determine how much work and additional resource may be required and how many iterations of the ‘app’ might be needed.  The more detailed design work would take place during phase two of the project so it was not possible at this stage to confirm a proposed released date. 


Councillor Burkitt welcomed the ‘app’ but was concerned that this was the only thing that members of the public would be able to use as a result of this project.  He referred to other smart city measures that he had used in other cities in the country, such as digital code inputs to establish the next scheduled bus arrival in London and digital display screens at bus stops in Basingstoke showing real-time bus journeys.  Councillor Burkitt wanted to see all bus stops have real-time display screens introduced and also felt that traffic lights should automatically turn green when buses approached the signal.  He questioned what other similar initiatives had been considered and whether any further thought was being given to them. 


Noelle Godfrey explained that the ‘app’ was one way of ensuring that information was put out to the general public, but said that there were many other ways of sharing information as well.  Various mechanisms were already in place that provided information to people, but the real question was what data were they providing and was it the right data.  She reported that analysis on this issue had already commenced.


In terms of traffic lights, it was noted that this sat within other workstreams of the City Deal.  Tanya Sheridan, City Deal Programme Director, confirmed that bus priority traffic lights were being looked into as part of City Deal schemes in terms of bus priority and capacity objectives.  Councillor Burkitt was keen to see the introduction of automatic green lights at traffic signals for all buses as a blanket approach, rather than solely on specific schemes.  Graham Hughes, Executive Director for Economy, Transport and Environment at Cambridgeshire County Council, explained that such a proposal was not as simple as it appeared.  He said that each junction would need to be looked at separately to establish the implications of such a measure in terms of balancing the movement of traffic and understanding its effect.  He therefore felt that a blanket approach would be the wrong thing to introduce, but welcomed the introduction of such a measure on any junction where it was right to do so.


Mark Reeve welcomed the question in respect of resourcing and was of the opinion that the project was underfunded and under-resourced, adding that if Cambridge really wanted to become a smart city the City Deal should be investing more time and resources.  Councillor Herbert noted the concern but made the point that this was a start, that the partnership with the University was very good and that it would be important to build on this.


Councillor Ian Bates made reference to a leaflet that had been produced in respect of the Smart Cambridge project, highlighting in particular a page which set out the significant number of contributors from a range of sectors that was involved in the project.


Professor Nigel Slater made the point that the City Deal Partnership was already competing with other smart cities in the country and that this workstream was not behind in any way.  He added that the project could result in the selling of data or systems.


The Executive Board:


(a)        NOTED the progress to date.


(b)        NOTED the forward plan for the delivery of the first phase. 


(c)        AGREED that Councillor Francis Burkitt and Professor Nigel Slater would lead on this project on behalf of the Executive Board.

Supporting documents: