Sarah WrayTuesday 21 November 2017

MK Data Hub to work on two layers

Mayor points to provision of proprietary and open data, along with plans for mobility-as-a-service

Milton Keynes’ data hub is being transformed into a two-layer system, providing a combination of proprietary and open data, the town’s mayor has told an international conference.

Peter MarlandPeter Marland outlined the development as part of his speech to the Smart City Expo World Congress in Barcelona last week, along with plans for Milton Keynes – one of the leaders in the UK’s smart places movement – to be a front-runner in urban innovation, particularly transport.

He said it is looking to be a leader in data innovation, leveraging data from many sources into its MK Data Hub platform. Opening up some of the data to support the local economy is a significant part of the effort.

“We understand that whilst some data needs to be open (for sharing with the public or third parties) … some data from the private sector and public sector has value,” he said.

“We are transforming into a two-layer data system. One, which is completely open and one which is proprietary, and will be accessed by funding mechanisms.”

As yet, few authorities are achieving this advanced approach to data, Marland said.

Future transport

He added that the Data Hub is enabling Milton Keynes’ journey towards mobility-as-a-service and underpinning tools such as the City Motion Map, which uses around 14,000 sensors to pull in information about vehicles, cycles and pedestrians to show movement around the city and help people plan their journeys better.

“The difference is those sensors are all in themselves AI (artificial intelligence), and they are all learning individually,” Marland said, adding: “With our Autodrive programme (around autonomous vehicles) and with our pod programme (a fleet of autonomous low speed, last mile vehicles), we are able to allow autonomy and real time AI to combine.”

The use of these new forms of transport, as well as drones, together with AI throws up some interesting new challenges for the town and its residents, Marland explained. These include whether people should be able to override autonomous vehicles.

“As we develop new transport systems,” he said, “(No-one knows exactly) what will emerge, how they will emerge, how individuals will react, how society will react. But it comes down, ultimately to me, for the place to be better.”

Sandbox for sensors

Marland said the approach to these many unknowns is to remain open: “We want to be a sandbox city… I don't know which sensors will ultimately end up being Blu-ray, and which sensors will ultimately end up being Betamax. “

He added: “It will be down to the market to deliver some of that transport innovation.

“People didn't build canals or railways because cities told them to. Originally people built canals and railways because there was an economic imperative to do so.  

“Let’s not forget that transport and mobility are a function of society. It is about growing the economy, it is about getting people and services from A to B.”

Image from Milton Keynes Council