The hub isn’t restricted to public data but allows private data to be accessed through a direct connection with the provider
MK:Smart, the Open University-led consortium of local and national partners dedicated to helping Milton Keynes become a smart city, has launched the MK Data Hub. More than two years in the making, it features data from a range of dynamic and static sources relevant to the city. One of its primary aims is to support local start-ups and SMEs to develop applications to make the city smarter by making it easier for them to access and exploit data.
MK:Smart has also announced the launch of the Urban Start-Up Lab, a business and technical support programme dedicated to helping SMEs and techpreneurs build their own applications.
The MK Data Hub project is lead by Mathieu d’Aquin, senior research fellow at the Knowledge Media Institute, The Open University, who explains that it will provide the data infrastructure to support more intelligent ways of using and organising the city’s resources today and in the future. “The focus is on sustainability and growth,” he says.
Speaking exclusively to SmartCitiesWorld, d’Aquin adds: “We are a relatively new city which means we don’t yet have some of the issues that older cities of similar size have. For example, we have less traffic congestion. However, we expect the population to increase by a further 20 per cent by 2020 which would put more stress on the transport infrastructure as well as key resources such as energy and water.”
The MK Data Hub features more than 550 datasets and is distinct from similar data repository initiatives in the UK in that it is a combination of open and private data. Around 200 of the datasets are publicly available and 300 “partially accessible” or available through a direct connection with the provider, explains d’Aquin. “This means we haven’t had to restrict the project to open data,” he adds.
Sources range from sensors positioned in weather stations, recycling bins and bus locations, alongside smart meters and more static resources such as information held on schools and crime. “We even have datasets that describe each and every roundabout,” says d’Aquin. “Which if you know Milton Keynes is a big dataset.”
He also explains that the current data hub has been designed more with technical application developers in mind rather than end-users though adds that an additional portal, MK Insight, will be developed. “We’ll be putting data in a format that is more citizen-friendly and which can be used to answer specific questions such as how well a school is performing.”
MK Data Hub was unveiled at the University Campus Milton Keynes (UCMK) where members of MK:Smart demonstrated a number of data-led transport, energy and water applications in development.
These included MotionMap, available to the public in 2017, and which shows the movements of people and vehicles across Milton Keynes in real time. It will feature embedded timetables, car parking, bus and cycle information, and estimate congestion and crowd density in different parts of the city. A demonstration version of MotionMap is currently being used to explore how this type of user-focused information might influence travel behaviour and transform the provision of all types of transport services in Milton Keynes.
MK:Smart is also working with local suppliers to evaluate energy systems and technologies that will allow householders to harness domestically generated solar power for use within electric vehicles. In addition, it is collecting data about the driving behaviour of electric vehicles in Milton Keynes to better understand their real-world energy demand and devise plans to minimise energy consumption.
Water Monitor is another of its data-led initiatives. HR Wallingford, the Oxfordshire-based independent research and consultancy in civil engineering and environmental hydraulics, is working closely with Anglian Water, BT and The Open University on four complementary activities that look at influencing how much water Milton Keynes citizens use. These include a website where householders can access regular water meter readings for their property and gain advice on how to reduce water usage.
Speaking at the launch, Enrico Motta, professor of knowledge technologies at The Open University, said MK:Smart is the culmination of more than two years’ work by the talented team of IT experts, data scientists and software engineers. He commented: “We are very much looking forward to extending our network of collaborators and working with new partners to develop new data-centric applications that will help to progress the smart city agenda in Milton Keynes.”
BT is one of MK:Smart’s partners and was involved with the development of the Data Hub with The Open University. Paul Garner, BT’s head of future business, technology research and practice said: “MK:Smart has now become a project of great significance and it’s fantastic for BT to be working as part of an initiative that’s addressing fundamental challenges that will make a real difference to the lives of citizens in Milton Keynes and beyond. The MK Data Hub is at the core of driving the smart cities movement forward and the launch of the Data Hub will accelerate the pace of innovation for smart city solutions.”