New observatories launched in smart cities to improve our environment

New observatories launched in smart cities to improve our environment
25 November 2019

A network of Urban Observatories has launched in six cities across the UK with the potential to improve the quality of life for its citizens. The Urban Observatories are collecting environmental data – on everything from air quality to noise pollution – to build a picture of each city and the environment it creates.

The Urban Observatories have been funded by the UK Collaboratorium for Research on Infrastructure and Cities (UKCRIC), an integrated research capability with a mission to underpin the renewal, sustainment and improvement of infrastructure and cities in the UK and elsewhere. Each observatory is linked to a university and the data collected is openly available. They are based in Newcastle, Bristol, Sheffield, Cranfield, Manchester and Birmingham, with the joint aim of developing a new understanding of cities.

The UKCRIC Urban Observatories have been shortlisted for STEM Research Project of the Year as part of the 2019 THE Awards.

What is an urban observatory?

Through the gathering of data relating to the physical processes within cities, Urban Observatories enable characterisation of how cities ‘work’ and how their constituent engineering, natural and social systems interact. This characterisation is achieved through the analysis of data to create information, support modelling and build simulations of these physical processes.

The capabilities of each observatory differ slightly, but all observatories integrate sensors, middleware, data storage, data processing and data visualization. Different data is available from each observatory, but as an example, The Urban Observatory in Newcastle runs a project called ‘Sense my Street’ where you can approach them with a challenge or issue you are trying to solve and what sensor data would be useful. A number of sensors, of various types and capabilities can be deployed around the city. The sensors record the current conditions and transmit data wirelessly to our servers, which clean, analyse and store the data for you.

The long-term aim is to have the resource to expand the network of observatories into a national community of towns and cities that all share a common platform, showing data in real time that can be used to influence decision making.   The six constituent cities are already working together with a shared platform, data governance and data access methods.  The observatories are built on the cornerstone of open and accessible data – available to all – researchers, citizens, business and government.

This data can benefit organisations such as industry bodies, policy groups and city councils in a multitude of ways, and the observatories are actively seeking partners to work with. Get in touch with us to learn more about how you might benefit from using the open access data at your own organisation.