New IoT project for Manchester


An innovative project in Manchester aimed at improving the services for its residents has today (Thursday) been chosen as the winner of a £10m Government-led technology competition.

The CityVerve Project aims to test better services using the Internet of Things (IoT) technology. It includes plans for talkative bus stops, which let bus operators know when commuters are waiting, and a network of sensors in parks and along commuter routes to encourage people to do more physical activity.

The Internet of Things adds sensors and data analysis to equipment like streetlamps, vehicles or home heating equipment. These ‘smart’ improvements will help deliver more personal, efficient and flexible products and services. Clicks and Links will participate in designing a Serious Game to encourage a positive behaviour change with Manchester residents.


26 January 2017

CL currently has a game, called the Age of Energy in which the saving of energy is gamified for young people. The hypothesis is that the same reward mechanisms could be used to encourage other, but similar behaviour change. The condition of this behaviour change would have to be that it would need to be something that a player would be interested in doing anyway, but somehow cannot get around to doing consistently. We’re talking about so-called desirable habit forming. Things like eating healthier, exercising more, etc. would be suitable candidates in that respect.

As part of the work in WP6, CL is building a generic mission engine application that can drive custom missions to players through a variety of applications. This means that the platform is no longer bound by the energy-related missions, but can cooperate with other experts in creating sets of mission for other purposes, including health.

A current challenge is that the current game is heavily targeted towards active mobile gamers between 16-24 and is slightly skewed towards male gaming preferences. If this game is to be applied in the context of the Community Wellness use case, a couple of things require a redesign. Most importantly, the target audience is completely different. It is difficult to imagine elderly playing this mobile game that focuses on building and conquering villages. A workaround could be that a separate application is created that puts a higher emphasis on the missions themselves rather than this particular gameplay and have players earn points by going for walks. Compliance of this could be tracked by a variety of methods, including smartphones, IoT sensors, wearables, etc. Point exchange protocols could be included, allowing grandparents to earn points for their grandchildren for example, or promote social cohesion by offering youngsters points in return for missions set by the elderly (e.g. help me carry my groceries upstairs for 100 points). 

Most of these things are still a long way off, and quite uncertain at this stage, but one cannot help imagine the opportunities of such an interconnected system of incentives.

Clicks and Links are also delivering a Visualisation Platform to as part of the 30 million Euro Triangulum project, running under the European Commission Horizon 2020 funding structure from 2015-2020. 

This project is a Smart Cities Lighthouse project with Manchester as one of the Flagship cities, together with Eindhoven (NL) and Stavanger (NO). These cities are testbeds for innovation solutions within a smart city. A group of Follower Cities (Leipzig, Sabadell, Prague) are also involved to leverage innovations that may be of benefit to them. 

The first version of the visualisation platform is about to be released as an alpha version. This will be for internal stakeholder consumption, before engaging others within the Manchester community. Version 1 is based upon Virtual Reality to support immersive interaction with data sets generated by the project. Collaboration is an important next step, so that multiple participants or "players" can interact in the same virtual environment. 

One of the key lessons to-date is about the challenge of data. Data is the fuel for visualisation, but all too often the availability and consistency of data is a challenge. We've got ideas on how to manage that, but that's for another post. 


Digital Economy Minister Ed Vaizey said:

I’m delighted that the CityVerve Project is the winner of our Internet of Things Cities competition. The Project will bring real benefits to people who live and work across Manchester, one of our Northern Powerhouse cities.

The UK’s tech sector is renowned for its creativity as well as pioneering research and development. The Manchester project will help the UK to be a world leader in the adoption of Internet of Things technologies and inspire others around the world to create smarter cities.

Out of 22 entries involving 34 cities across the UK and with a shortlist of six finalists, the City Verve project was declared the clear winner. The project is led by Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership and was selected because of its ambition, scale, coordination across the public and private sector, and potential for success.

On behalf of the CityVerve consortium, Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, said:

I’m delighted that Manchester has been selected as the UK demonstrator city to test and demonstrate how the imaginative use of smart technology can make a real positive difference to our people and businesses. The lessons learned from this project should benefit the country as a whole.

The pioneering work Manchester is doing on devolution, finding innovative ways to respond to local needs and priorities, makes us the perfect test bed for this work. Our plans are firmly focussed on creating the conditions for economic growth and helping connect people with the opportunities created - whether that’s helping them to monitor their own health to help avoid preventable illness or giving them improving transport information to help them move around the city more easily.

The CityVerve project will demonstrate applications of Internet of Things technologies and services in four key areas: healthcare; transport; energy and environment; and culture and community. It will demonstrate a smart city at scale, aiming to provide a replicable model for other cities in the UK and beyond.

Mike Blackburn, chair of the Greater Manchester LEP said:

Manchester is a city built on innovation so it is a worthy winner of this competition. From business to healthcare, information is a valuable resource. This project will enable us to better use it to enhance services, increase performance and improve efficiency.

Science and innovation is key to Manchester’s economic future. This project will enable us to be an example for the rest of the country, showing how new technology can aid the delivery of both business growth and public services.

Internet of Things is a major area of growth and will have a transformative effect on society. A recent report by independent consultants Arup estimates that the global value of the Internet of Things sector will exceed £255 billion a year by 2020.


Photo by Mike Kniec, used under CC.