Smart Cambridgeshire

This article was published in 2015, in Newsletter 123.

On 3 November the Greater Cambridge City Deal Executive Board agreed, in principle, to support the investment of up to £280,000 to implement a Smart Technology Platform subject to a more detailed investment proposal in early 2016.

This will be carried out by Smart Cambridgeshire, part of the Connecting Cambridgeshire digital infrastructure programme. This project was set up initially to roll out super-fast broadband across the county but has expanded to look at how technology can improve residents’ quality of life whilst addressing the challenges arising from the unprecedented growth which the region will see over the next 15 years.

Digital technology now underpins almost every aspect of modern living across work, travel, leisure and health. Emerging ‘smart cities’ technology uses data emerging from this digital infrastructure to enhance the quality and performance of urban services and to engage more effectively and actively with its citizens.

So what has this got do with cycling?

Probably the smartest thing a city can do is to become a cycling city. In fact the Smart Cambridgeshire programme plans to support Cambridge in becoming one of the leading cycling cities.

It will do this by deploying sensor networks and establishing a data hub which will provide the data-sets necessary to support innovation and development of new technology.

There is a huge range of potential information which could inform residents’ cycling journeys, such as updates about current congestion on road networks, accurate and localised weather predictions and the availability of bike parking spaces at specific points.

When combined with a journey planner such as Cycle Streets even more personalised routes can be planned. For example, if you have respiratory problems then better information on air pollution levels would allow the journey planner to route you away from areas with poor air quality.

The convenience and suitability of bike share schemes could be improved. Transport for London already uses the data it collects from its cycle hire scheme to inform the distribution of its bicycles, so that numbers on the ground can respond to changes in demand. Smart technology can also enable better, more efficient bike share schemes, such as bikes with locks that can be unlocked using mobile phones and allowing startups such as Air Donkey, which has been described as the Uber for Bikes.

There is even work within Europe looking at whether cycles can talk to traffic infrastructure and cars. A trial in Helmond in the Netherlands is looking to see whether cars and cycles can warn each other they are about to collide… who knows what could be next!

Dan Clarke, Future Digital Manager, Connecting Cambridgeshire.