Creating key data for the businesses of Birmingham

Project title: CityGate

The way businesses grow is changing, with the use and implementation of data becoming more and more vital. Currently, 79 percent of global enterprise executives agree that companies that don’t embrace big data will lose their competitive position. Birmingham City University academics, such as Adel Aneiba, believe that businesses understanding and making use of the data available is key to ensuring a competitive advantage.

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Birmingham is set to become a smart city, one that connects a range of data – including sensors – and technologies to improve the quality of life within Birmingham and increase efficiency for businesses, organisations and medical professionals. Therefore, it is imperative local organisations begin analysing and making use of important data, particularly regarding traffic and footfall. However, effective data is still difficult to obtain, and even if successfully found can be expensive to purchase and challenging to decipher.

Recognising the potential of Birmingham as a smart city, and the issues businesses are facing, established academics from varied backgrounds at Birmingham City University are working together to develop an exciting Urban Internet of Things (IoT) data platform, CityGate, that will collect, integrate and analyse big data across the city, positively impacting the region’s businesses, authorities and residents.

The challenge – changing the way businesses operate

CityGate ensures that data can be collected in real time, enabling businesses the chance to assess information and predict change. For example, once a pattern of peoples’ movements is established, businesses can ascertain what places are busier and why. Analysing data over a six-month period will inform a business on what areas are popular, peak times, which businesses fit well together and more.

There are even opportunities for businesses on the data collected on quieter and up-and-coming areas of Birmingham, as businesses can look to capitalise on thisby purchasing land, among other opportunities.

The challenge – monitoring transport

CityGate will also benefit local authorities as the platform is able to monitor vehicles’ movement across the city, gathering important data from a number of junctions. This will assess how many automobiles are passing through, the types of vehicles (diesel cars, vans, motorbikes) and congestion times. This data will be invaluable for local transport agencies, as it will allow them to observe busy periods, optimise transportation, reduce costs and assess CO2 emissions, all of which are under observation with the city’s increasing dedication to sustainability, particularly the proposed introduction of a Birmingham congestion charge.

The delivery – data models suited for your business

The academics involved have built an electronic board using LoRaWAN technology, a low-cost, high-bandwidth protocol. This has enabled the team to get a live feed from the roads where sensors have been planted, providing valuable communication between the roads, the data and the academics assessing it. So far, CityGate has looked at:

  •         People counting
  •         Air quality
  •         Road traffic monitoring

However, there are plans to add more data models to build a holistic view of the city, particularly if a business has a particular request or area they wish to examine.

The delivery – end-to-end success

The Birmingham City University academics participating bring together considerable experience in machine learning, business process change, big data, Internet of Things (IoT) and more. Heavily involved in the project is Adel Aneiba, an Associate of Professor in IoT, who has worked with leading software manufacturers IBM and PTC, as well as Birmingham City Council and West Midlands Combined Authorities, on multiple projects.

With cities filled with people, buildings, parks and businesses, CityGate will assess and pull data from all of these assets. The data platformoffers an end-to-end system; it is able to not only acquire and gather data through sensors, but can also then analyse it through a backend system and provide users with the results, enabling them to successfully implement it into their plans.

Looking to the future

The CityGate system has already begun, with sensors being planted in select areas of Birmingham to collect real time data. The infrastructure of the back-end system has also been built and successfully deployed within Birmingham City University premises.

Once fully operational, CityGate will help us understand Birmingham more clearly. The data provided will enable businesses, local government and more to assess information, predict change and discover competitive advantages.

There will also be benefits to the wider research community, as data gathered from CityGate will be published for researchers to view and utilize in their research activities. In the future, CityGate’s findings will assist in the improved planning of retail parks, build city resilience and help make Birmingham more sustainable.

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We invite businesses and organisations of all sizes, from all sectors, to get in touch to discuss potential research collaborations. You can see more research collaboration areas on our homepage.

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Adel Aneiba

Adel Aneiba

Associate Professor in Internet of Things (IoT)

Adel believes that research is carried out for one key reason – to make a difference. Whether it be economical, social, political or technological, Adel’s research is designed to impact both the local community and the wider world. Adel has worked closely with leading software manufacturer such as PTC, IBM and TTN, and with West Midlands Combined Authority and Birmingham City Council on various projects related to smart cities, Internet of Things (IoT) and more. Adel believes that the collaboration opportunities for his projects are huge, such are the wide-scale benefits of smart cities, big data and real-time footage.

Working in the following areas:

Smart cities