Todays’ cities are awash with data produced by governments, residents, businesses and visitors. It is predicted that by 2020 individuals will produce 1.7MB of data a second. In a city like Southampton with its population of 245,300 this would equate to 131,507 petabytes each year (A petabyte is one thousand million, million bytes). Therefore it is crucial that cities are able to identify from the outset the data that is useful to them, how to obtain it and how to use it effectively.
I choose Southampton as my example because in 2010, I developed the Atlantic North West scheme there to address a lack of connectivity and reshape the urban agenda, by creating a clearer link between the port area and the city’s main rail station. With the rise of the smart city agenda I have revisited the scheme to examine what new opportunities there might be to generate long term benefits for the city.
I presented the results of this study at the Chartered Institute of Building conference speaking in my role as Managing Director of BAM Design.
With growing urbanisation and a need to curb spending, many cities are facing increased pressure to increase the quality of life for citizens and improve efficiency. A smart approach uses data combined with technology as a mechanism to help local authorities to deliver a wider city agenda by providing timely information, enabling them to identify and analyse trends and engage more effectively with residents and businesses, resulting in improved long-term social, economic and environmental performance.
It relies on a six step process which involves:
1. Establishing a vision and goals with stakeholders
2. Identifying how to collect and collate data with others
3. Determining methods to share data with others and foster innovation
4. Disseminating the data in user friendly formats e.g. apps, dashboards
5. Establishing your smart city
6. Monitoring and continually improving your approach
In the initial scheme I had created a new corridor to link the station and port area, which had been physically blocked off back to the city. This provided a new destination space for visitors and residents and helped to reconnect the city back to its maritime heritage and identity. I also developed a park and ride/monorail scheme for cruise passengers arriving on local motorways, which aimed to cut some of the congestion the city faces due to cargo, cruise and premiership football traffic. Adding a smart approach onto these ideas has allowed us to identify new ways to improve efficiency within the city and achieve greater connectivity. For example we explored the use of an automatic number plate recognition system that would track lorries as they arrived at the port, quickly clearing them to enter and sending them to the right bay for cargo collection as they arrive, preventing backlogs of trucks, which has a negative impact on other city traffic.
A Southampton application for smart phones would provide real time information to visitors, workers and residents helping them to get more from their city and engage with others. While dashboards could also be developed using city or campus wide data to show city wide building performance, energy usage and carbon emissions; helping the council and building owners to ensure assets are performing as expected.
I built on the original goals of the Atlantic North West design masterplan, which included the need to reduce congestion, improve performance and create greater community cohesion and accessibility. City data would come from sources such as the council, communities, the private sector and infrastructure (transport, energy etc.) and I proposed that this data would be stored within the 3D BIM model of the city, enabling all stakeholders to access multiple layers of information quickly and make decisions.
To support data collection and dissemination, a city wide Wi-Fi system would be installed to give everyone internet access and allow them to interact with applications and web based tools. In addition mechanisms need to be in place to facilitate the sharing of data and ensure that it is employed in a useful way. Innovation labs provide a way to bring government, business and the community together to use data to tackle challenges, test new products and solutions, helping new concepts get off the ground, proving business cases and providing mentorship for entrepreneurs. The availability of funding is also central to the success of a smart approach, helping kick-start and then scale-up innovation across and beyond the city.
The Southampton project shows how a design led masterplan can be augmented by a city wide BIM model. It also demonstrates that adopting a smart approach can generate benefits for schemes and the city as a whole, including helping councils to address the challenges they face, improve efficiency and allow communities to engage with their city in new ways.