House of Lords, London, UK — The UK has launched a smart city initiative designed to give Britain a lead in the global smart cities race. The #HyperCatCity programme’s collaborative approach and open standards aim to make it faster and easier for developers to deliver smart city solutions that improve the lives of citizens. 

The #HyperCatCity programme reportedly sees an unprecedented level of collaboration between the public and private sectors to apply an open and interoperable Internet of Things (IoT) standard, HyperCat. Work has already begun on the #HyperCatCity programme, which is supported by the Mayor of London and backed by multinational businesses including KPMG, Accenture, Symantec, Huawei, QinetiQ, Arqiva, Open Energi, Fujitsu, and more. (Also see: UK government funds HyperCat, ‘a new way for machines to work together’ says IoT tech consortium.)

Led by operational intelligence experts, Flexeye, whose focus is on partnering with experts to build smart systems for industry, the #HyperCatCity programme will see private sector giants working alongside public sector bodies in a unique ecosystem that that will enable the delivery of the smartest systems, at both scale and speed, without the usual degree of competition and control surrounding internet of things standards used by ubiquitous global giants. (Also see: There are just three simple rules of engagement for IoT.)

This collaborative approach is typical of HyperCat. It started life in 2014 as a UK Government-funded, not-for-profit consortium of 40 British businesses large and small, working alongside public sector bodies to agree on the HyperCat specification, described as “the first entirely open and interoperable IoT specification”. The consortium has now grown to more than 300 organisations, and the #HyperCatCity programme is being touted as an example of how the specification is being applied at scale to address real social, economic and environmental challenges. (Also see: Smart connected homes driving IoT.)

Boris Johnson, Mayor of London

Boris Johnson, Mayor of London

The #HyperCatCity programme was originally designed to support the London Infrastructure Plan, launched by Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, in July 2014. According to a programme spokesperson, “Infrastructure is fundamental to every Londoner, everyday, and by its very nature infrastructure underpins everything we do. The plan sets out what infrastructure London requires for a population that is forecast to 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 (€1.74 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, now making it possible for anyone to build applications from it, discovering data and combining data sources more simply than ever before.

Not just a London phenomenon

Practical smart city solutions are also being delivered at street level in Milton Keynes and Bristol, with other UK cities soon to join the HyperCatCity movement. 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 that trucks can be sent 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’s 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% 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.

A multinational initiative

With a trade mission to India scheduled for March and the support of global partners such as Accenture, the #HyperCatCity programme is set to become a multinational smart city initiative, with Britain at the helm.

Justin Anderson, Flexeye CEO

Justin Anderson, Flexeye CEO

Speaking in the House of Lords, Justin Anderson, CEO of Flexeye and lead of the HyperCatCity programme 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.”

Geoff Snelson, head of Strategy at Milton Keynes Council said: ‘Milton Keynes is implementing Internet of Things applications across a range of use cases and demonstrating how such technologies can be central to addressing the challenges our city faces. Our project has demonstrated the importance of an effective interface between the technology providers and the city’s challenges and being part of #HyperCatCity is an exciting opportunity to develop this approach further with a top quality group of collaborators.’

Paul Wilson, managing director of Bristol Is Open said: ‘Bristol Is Open will go live in April 2015. It is Europe’s first city-scale R&D test bed for Smart City technologies, and is a joint venture between Bristol City Council and the University of Bristol. Two types of organisation are getting involved – technical and societal. Telecom and technology companies are engaging with the Software Defined Network (SDN), developed by the University, which is at the heart of the test bed. This new technology will transform the way telecoms companies operate their networks and promises to liberate the amount of data gathered by IoT and Big Data platforms.

“The second is societal projects supported by the council,” swais Wilson, “which will make use of the new technical infrastructure to address the challenges of the modern urban environment. Societal projects being developed include mobility, such as driverless cars; energy, with a city-scale renewable energy company; and social care, including assisted living for the elderly and isolated. Bristol Is Open is at its inception, and the number of projects and partners is developing all the time.”

David Hill, business development director, Open Energi said: “Open Energi is harnessing flexibility in our energy demand via Internet of Things technology to build the UK’s first virtual power station. We connect thousands of energy-intensive assets nationwide – from fridges to furnaces – which once aggregated can provide vital capacity to help maintain power supplies and reduce our reliance on fossil-fuelled power stations. The ability to flexibly manage our demand for energy can help ensure cities globally have clean, secure and affordable energy, but the full benefits will only be realised by bringing down the cost of connectivity. #HyperCatCity is helping to drive the collaboration, common standards and interoperability which will underpin the low carbon smart cities of the future.”