Great Innovation of the North; what does Newcastle’s Smart Street mean for its citizens?

05 Jul 2018 - Hannah Kaner

‘Newcastle has innovation in its DNA,’ says Stu Higgins of Cisco, one of the partners creating the ‘smartest street in the UK’ for the Great Exhibition of the North. Mosley Street was the first in the UK to be lit by electric lighting in 1879, opening up the night for its citizens. In 2018, Newcastle are determined to again, open up the city using cutting edge technology.

Smartest Street in the UK

The smart street will be using the latest in sensor technology, combining live and historic data from the street and sources, such as Newcastle University’s Urban Observatory, to pick up valuable information. It will then employ careful aggregation, applied AI and targeted analytics to understand and respond to the arising information.

This street will be an excellent example of some of the things a smart city can achieve. In particular, it will use ambient data to achieve real use cases and solve problems through interoperable assets and data producers. For example, relating the problems of traffic congestion, air pollution, potholes and over-crowded parking spaces to potential solutions, such as preemptive road management or parking space prediction for city users.

However, smart data production management - ‘making the invisible visible’ - is only one facet of a smart city. Smart technologies are expensive, and the data produced is often thin, unless interrogated with careful auditing and qualitative analysis. Data measures past events, but on its own, it cannot produce the changes in citizen or service behaviour in a way that creates real and resilient improvements.

Smart cities need smart citizens

Citizens are experts in their city, their own needs and their own care. However, many are disengaged from or dissatisfied with city services. Even more are forced to place huge demands on services which struggle to respond to specific and contextual needs.

The smart technologies like those on Mosley Street can go a long way towards changing this. With clear applications and touch-points that citizens can recognise and engage with, we can optimise active city engagement and help produce high-quality, person-oriented data.

Putting citizens first

Our approach to smart city solutions and services development is to enable cities to apply different data metrics, from quantitative to qualitative, big to targeted, to the context of citizen need, creating careful use cases that solve problems, for citizens.

Most digital innovators strive to ‘fail fast’, but these are not accountable to citizens facing problems as cities like Newcastle are. Orange Bus instead propose a method that is ‘fail safe’: we work with citizens to co-design their city’s smart solutions, services, and applications. Ultimately, Orange Bus validate solutions, backing these up with recommendations for engaging interoperating data sets and strategies for implementation and enabling behavioural change.

Mosley Street is changing the ways in which the city interacts with citizens, and we recommend focusing on the way citizens interact with the city.

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