Manchester takes part in Synchronicity IoT programme

City to provide UK contribution to European effort to scale up ‘fit for purpose’ smart city solutions from SMEs

Manchester City Council is taking part in a project backed by the European Commission to promote the scaling up of internet of things (IoT) projects in urban areas.

It is one of eight European cities taking part in the Synchronicity programme, which is making €3 million available as part of the Horizon 2020 programme.

Guy in front of a big screenDetails of the project were made public at an event at the Future Cities Catapult yesterday evening. It preceded an open call for SME led projects, which have already developed successful prototypes for the use of IoT, with the promise of running six-month demonstrators in at least three cities for the winners.

It will also include financial support, with the programme providing 80% of funds. This can total up to €100,000 for projects led by SMEs alone, €200,000 for groups of two and €300,000 for three or more.

SMEs are being invited to apply with city authorities and large companies. While Manchester has committed to take part, other UK cities could also become involved if teamed with a small company that has shown a solution to be fit for purpose.

The open call is going to be open for four months from the beginning of June, with a focus on proving solutions that are interoperable, replicable and scalable. Other requirements are that they include common APIs, open data platforms and data models, and that they are based on “real needs” of people in cities.

Building market

Speaking at the launch event, Jarmo Eskelinin, innovation and technology officer for the Future Cities Catapult, said a prime aim of the programme is to help develop a competitive and sizeable market for smart cities solutions.

“Cities do not want to step into monopoly solutions; they shy away from ‘smart cities in a box’ from a single company,” he said.

“And secondly, one city is not a market. Even a city the size of London is not big enough to justify the development of solutions that will not work anywhere else. It is too expensive and there would be many solutions with too few users.”

Adrian Slatcher, principal resources and programmes officer at Manchester City Council, said that involvement with the programme will mark the next step for the authority as the CityVerve programme reaches its end in June. The council has been involved in the smart places demonstrator with companies including Cisco and BT, testing IoT technology in a corridor south of the city centre.

“We’ve been working with about 15 partners to deliver a number of small scale pilots,” he said. “We’ve been doing things around transport, energy and environment, and to a lesser degree around health and social care.

“What we’re looking for now is solutions that are not replicating what we have, but are best of breed, offer something new and able to integrate with the way that people live their lives.”

Image: Jarmo Eskelinin outlines the priorities of the Synchronicity programme