The University of Bristol highlight the growing trend for cities to build open platforms for the rapidly expanding range of digital services developed by and for citizens.  Birmingham City University, which recently announced a partnership with the Digital Catapult, have recently launched a new digital simulation toolkit to improve the development of smart cities.

The Data Driven Interactive Smart City decision support toolkit (DISC) aims to model and simulate the impact of major infrastructure developments using both historical and real-time data.

The project will focus initially on two significant developments taking place within Birmingham:

  1. the development of the High Speed 2 terminus
  2. the revival of the canals

It will endeavour to unlock and make better use of data that is currently either siloed or closed off, thus allowing a more data driven approach to urban renewal.  This data will help underpin a new 3d platform that has been developed by Singaporean firm Urbanetic, and which will help drive improvements in areas such as traffic congestion and energy efficiency.

“Cities need to grow, but they need to do so in a sustainable and safe manner. Project DISC is an innovative simulation tool, which allows us to better plan for major infrastructure developments in a secure fashion that protects and manages the specific demands of an urban area – even at a hyperlocal level,” says Professor Julian Beer, Pro-Vice-Chancellor Research, Enterprise and Business Engagement at Birmingham City University.

Data driven insights

The simulations offered by the package will also help to identify areas where existing data records are lacking, thus helping to indicate where improvements in data collection are required.

The toolkit developed by Birmingham City University and Birmingham City Council as part of Project DISC will use ‘Fabric’, a web-based three-dimensional geospatial modelling platform developed by Urbanetic. The toolkit is open and transferable, and will eventually be made available to other cities and private industry to serve similar needs across the globe.

Raj Mack, Head of Digital Birmingham at Birmingham City Council, commented:

“DISC provides a unique opportunity for us to build on the work that has already started through the Eastern Corridor Smart Demonstrator to develop new and integrated ways of using technology, data and infrastructure and city assets to deliver real benefits for the communities and citizens.

“The user and data driven toolkit of DISC will bring new insights and demonstrate a transformative approach to how we manage future investments, design and plan services and make the best use of resources, particularly in the lead up to significant investments like HS2 and ensuring their positive impact on neighbouring communities.”

The project, which was conceived by smart city consultancy firm Redpill Group, aims to commercially exploit the toolkit once it is fully developed, with the university providing modelling expertise to ensure that high quality software development is undertaken.

Robin Daniels, Managing Director of Redpill Group said:

“Smarter development starts with a vision for creating more liveable cities that balance the vision of governments, ambitions of real estate developers and the concerns and needs of residents. At Redpill Group, we are delighted to be working with our project partners to make that vision a reality for Birmingham and the greater West Midlands.

“HS2 and the regeneration of Birmingham’s canal network and adjacent land represent very significant investment opportunities for the city. Through this project we can help to ensure that these opportunities are realised to the full.”