Project title: Birmingham in Real Time (BiRT)
83 per cent of global businesses have implemented the use of data in order to seize a competitive advantage. That number is set to increase with the introduction of smart cities, a city that uses information and communication technologies to increase efficiency, share data and improve the quality of services. However, currently, businesses – especially smaller-scale companies and SMEs – are often forced to pay large sums of money to third party contractors in order to access this data. Furthermore, said data can then be complex and difficult to decipher.
Recognising these issues, leading Birmingham City University academics from multiple disciplines have teamed up with Birmingham City Council (BCC) and West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) to make real-time data about the city available, affordable and understandable.
The challenge – a one-stop shop for businesses and more
The project utilises the talents of many academics from a range of specialisms, creating a truly interdisciplinary project. However, the project – called Birmingham in Real Time (BiRT) – is led by Research Fellow Alan Dolhasz, based within the Faculty of Computing, Engineering and the Built Environment. Alan has worked on a range of industry-facing projects, collaborating with leading companies including Converse, Citroen and Denon & Marantz Professional.
For businesses, organisations and local authorities, BiRT offers a one-stop shop – not only is it able to make such important data available, our academics spend time with the users to ensure they understand and can make best use of the data. It cuts out those expensive fees and promotes growth for the business, as well as sustainability and a better quality of life for the city.
To begin with, the University has developed an application programme interface (API) in order to facilitate and simplify the process of analysing traffic data in Birmingham. This also assists BCC staff in detecting and managing issues and accidents much quicker and more reliably. Currently, the API provides real-time data about traffic over SCOOT loops (a traffic adaptive control system), as well as historical bike traffic and weather data.
Since BiRT has launched, academics have met and worked with a range of SMEs from multiple industries, providing them with data that is accessible and understandable.
Success to date
By enabling SMEs and local organisations to access and use data, they no longer have to outsource to private companies, saving vast amounts of money that can be better directed elsewhere. It also provides organisations with cleaner, more interpretable data; before data could arrive in a variety of contrasting formats that would take considerable time and effort to decode.
Looking to the future
BiRT allows SMEs and businesses the chance to plan for the future more effectively, by analysing and assessing data over certain periods to establish trends and growth. Birmingham City University’s academics are also working with BCC to incorporate a low-power, high-bandwidth system to better monitor real time data on Birmingham’s streets. This will also prove pivotal in the introduction of autonomous cars, principally the communications between cars (vehicle-to-vehicle communications), cars and services, and between the driver and car. This will make our roads and communities safer and more efficient.