By Michael Moore
Britain's first truly "smart cities" could be just a few years away thanks to the launch of a new initiative that looks to push collaboration between the public and private sector.
Backed by the Government's Innovate U.K. program, the HyperCatCity initiative looks to use the open and interoperable HyperCat IoT standard to further innovation and help developers push forward smart solutions for cities.
Bringing together business heavyweights such as KPMG, Accenture, Symantec, Huawei, QinetiQ, Arquiva, Open Energi, and Fujitsu alongside government support, HyperCatCity will look to do away with the usual degree of competition and control created by developer using conflicting Internet of Things standards.
HyperCatCity will initially roll out in the capital, having originally been designed to support the London Infrastructure Plan, launched by Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, in July 2014.
This initiative looked to anticipate what infrastructure London requires for a population that will exceed 11 million people by 2050. According the Greater London Authority, the total investment in London's infrastructure between 2016 and 2050 could amount to £1.3 trillion. The London Datastore, an official site providing free access to a number of data-sets from the Greater London Authority, has 'HyperCat enabled' its data, making it possible for anyone to build applications from it, discovering data and combining data sources more simply than ever before.
But HyperCatCity will also launch pilot programs across other areas of the U.K., with Milton Keynes and Bristol the first to benefit from the initiative.
In Milton Keynes, the council has been working with BT to implement entirely 'HyperCat enabled' solutions, including: smart waste disposal, where sensors are being used on bins so trucks can be sent out only to bins that are full; parking spaces, which have been fitted with studs sending real time data to show what spaces are filling up or emptying; and streetlights, which have been fitted with sensors that tell the council what lights need replacing or fixing, improving security for citizens, particularly those who use Milton Keynes' many red ways.
In Bristol, as part of the Bristol Is Open project, smart metering has been introduced, which sees energy data collected from buildings resulting in as much as a 20 percent reduction in energy usage; solar panels are being rigged up to reused car batteries to store energy which can be sold back to the network as a revenue stream; and air quality monitoring is informing plans to cut pollution, to the benefit of residents.
Speaking at the launch of the program in the House of Lords yesterday, Justin Anderson, lead of the HyperCatCity program, said: "HyperCatCity is a powerful example of where the rubber hits the road when an entirely open, interoperable IoT specification is applied to real life smart city challenges, building better services for citizens and, ultimately, taking some of the friction out of people's daily lives. It is also HyperCatCity's collaborative approach that will see Britain take the unlikely lead in the global smart cities race."
The reach of the Internet of Things is set to explode over the next few years, with estimates from Gartner predicting that 4.9 billion connected ' things' will be in use in 2015, up 30 percent from 2014, and will reach 25 billion by 2020.