How the UK’s urban data project is being rolled out to improve living conditions

The new smart city initiative will see Kainos using Microsoft Azure as a way to monitor environmental data

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Kainos, a global digital services platform provider, has been selected as the UK’s lead digital and data partner for a new urban data smart cities initiative.

The Urban Data Project, which has been proposed by a consortium including smart street lighting applications provider, Telensa, along with Microsoft and Smart Cambridge, was formed as a way to improve living conditions for citizens. It is currently being rolled out in Cambridge and is also expected to be rolled-out to other areas later in the year.

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Kainos was selected by Telensa to support the City Data Guardian trust platform in collecting and securing environmental data. The company will play a crucial role in ensuring all smart cities have transparent, private and secure data that citizens can trust.

“We’ve undertaken a number of large scale transformational government services, like we’re working with the passports office on the digital transformation of passports, and we implemented registered online voting for the cabinet office,” Russell Sloan, divisional director at Kainos tells Computerworld UK.

“This is a particularly exciting engagement for us working with Telensa, but what we’re really trying to do is collect data from different sources and different types of data that we put together to enable a true smart city initiative,” he adds.

Following an ongoing partnership with Microsoft, Kainos will use Microsoft’s Azure platform features to deliver a secure by design approach to provide cities with full confidence and transparency when it comes to data handling.

The City Data Guardian platform is also built on Microsoft Azure, offering access to advanced machine learning and AI capabilities for an accurate analysis of cities and urban areas with real-time data to assist with improving services.

“The main point is to build security into the design of what we do, and what that means is that we leverage a lot of the features that Microsoft would bring to that and utilise the security features of the Azure platform and pair that with some of our experience around cybersecurity ourselves to implement good practice throughout,” Sloan says.

Read next: What is a smart city? How to define a smart city

Use case

Telensa and Kainos have come together on this project with similar thought processes from a cultural standpoint. According to Sloan, the two organisations are particularly keen on identifying the impact for citizens wherever they live through the use of data.

“[Telensa] were keen to understand the privacy implications around it as a way that data is at the forefront of technology, and it’s really about trying to make an impact to citizens’ life, which is aligned to a lot of our work as well,” he adds.

A few of the use cases that have been trialled already include traffic management and reducing congestion in cities. For instance, traffic surveys are often seen to be slow and time consuming, however the urban data initiative provides quicker, more accurate data analysis to enable faster impact monitoring.

“So when you do that you reduce congestion and in general you get a better experience across cities, which I don’t think anybody will particularly object towards the fact that it also provides less traffic.

“The challenges here is to not try and boil the ocean and cover all the use cases in one go, it’s about picking the ones that are going to have the most impact straight away,” he explains.

In the future, Kainos hopes to continue developing the initiative with the support of Telensa and Microsoft Azure to improve the living conditions of citizens in various areas. This will include use cases such as improved traffic signalling and other areas that may have an impact on residents.

“We’re very consistent with our approach towards any of the services we provide; it’s not just about releasing it and thinking we’ve done a great job. We monitor what we do, we monitor the impact and we stick to real people while using the data to understand how the service is being used or the impact it’s having,” says Sloan.

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