Birmingham, London and Singapore open up data for smart urban planning


Previously unavailable transport, planning and air quality data for an area of north London around Kings Cross Station is to be used as a test-bed for world-class smart urban planning.

Luanched on Friday 22 July, an open competition is inviting applicants from around the world to use a 3D visualisation of part of the London Borough of Camden, combined with a range of large newly opened datasets, to explore the impacts of major construction projects on the air quality and traffic congestion in a specific area of the Borough.

BCU Advantage

Birmingham City University

Conceived and led by smart city experts Redpill Group, the ‘Construction & Energy’ challenge forms part of the UK-Singapore Data City | Data Nation partnership, run in the UK by Digital Catapult and sponsored by international legal practice Osborne Clarke and Birmingham City University.

Given the significance to London of the Kings Cross district, which is home to some of the capital’s most important building and infrastructure development projects, it is hoped the output will attract worldwide attention.

For the first time a third major city will join Data City | Data Nation founders London and Singapore; Birmingham, in the form of Birmingham City University. As well as co-sponsoring the challenge, the University will be opening up the opportunity to its network of West Midlands businesses, via its business growth service BCU Advantage, together with the institution’s community of 23,000 students.

Camden is home to a number of very significant regeneration projects. Developments such as these, taking place in an already densely populated urban area, are likely to have an effect on factors such as traffic congestion and air quality.

Camden Council recognises that air pollution, primarily caused by road traffic, is already high and its policy of minimising or, where possible, eliminating any negative environmental impact from new construction is widely known.

However, in the face of a hugely complex problem, coupled with pressure on public finances, the optimum solution is far from clear. In addition, the system is a dynamic one with a number of new projects underway or planned for the next few months and years. Each project, overlaid on the existing infrastructure, represents yet another layer of complexity in an urban environment that is currently neither well understood nor predictable. Smart planning requires data and the tools to interrogate, analyse, model and render it so that urban planners can make decisions that deliver better services to citizens, now and in the years to come.

The challenge is to find new insights from the data provided, to help predict the likely impact on the people living and working in the area, before, during and after construction. In addition to exploring how these effects might be mitigated, competition organisers will be looking for ideas for new technical solutions, businesses and insights for smart urban planning and operation.

A wide range of data sets will be made available as part of this challenge, including existing and future construction activity, engineering schemes, demographic data, traffic and air quality data.

An interactive 3D virtual model of the focus area will be provided by Singapore specialist Urbanetic for this challenge. Entrants will be expected to visualise new insights via the Urbanetic model, create or suggest new products or services to inform decision making in Camden Council, communicate with stakeholders and support the further engagement of the public sector in creating innovative data-driven solutions to this challenge.

The data will be available through a virtual data sandbox and participants have five weeks to work on their solutions. Shortlisted ideas will be given the opportunity to pitch their solution to a panel of industry judges for the chance to win a prize of £3,750.

Councillor Theo Blackwell, Cabinet Member for Finance, Technology and Growth at Camden Council said:

“Camden Council is committed to providing the best possible services to the people who live, work, play and travel through our Borough. A safe, efficient, clean and attractive environment is big part of that vision. Camden is also home to international transport hubs, a thriving business sector and some of the world’s greatest universities and research centres. In such a densely populated, vibrant and growing area the way that we envision, plan, develop and run our urban spaces has never been more important.”

“We are delighted to be working as part of this exceptional competition and look forward to learning from, and even adopting, some of the tools and approaches that will be explored and developed over the next few weeks.”

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