Manchester Must Not Hide Behind Governance and Security if it Wants to Create a Healthier City


Manchester Informatics recently had the pleasure of attending the Informatics for Health conference in Manchester where we hosted a panel session on ‘The Internet of Things for Smart, Healthy Cities’. The panellists included Nick Chrissos (CISCO), Carmel Dickinson (University of Manchester), Gary Leeming (Datawell), Andy Beechener (Republic of Things) and Julie Harrison (CMFT).

Nick Chrissos opened the session by speaking about how the transformative effects of technology can lead to better lives for not just the people of Manchester but around the world. Cities face unprecedented challenges but also the capacity to  bring innovative solutions to the fore. The healthcare sector in particular is expected to be one of the main benefactors of the CityVerve project and other IoT projects.

“Manchester needs to show how to write the next chapter on Smart Cities”

Julie Harrison spoke about the demand from patients for new technology and why listening to them is imperative to successful  implementation. The world is changing rapidly which at times results in isolation of those with illness or the infirm elderly ; this is something that CMFT and Julie want to challenge through CityVerve.

Carmel Dickinson then spoke on the work taking place that is trying to encourage citizens to do more exercise through the use of technology. The sensor network being developed in Manchester means that behavioural nudges can be used in order to make citizens exercise more. Incentivising people to exercise could also mean the possible use of virtual currency such as Buzzcoin,  developed by CityVerve industry partner Sparta Digital. Buzzcoins were used in the demonstration of City Concierge during Chinese New Year in January. Going forward, accumulation of a virtual currency through engaging in healthier activities (e.g. increased step count) could be linked to discounts at participating retail outlets or leisure and cultural service providers. 

“CityVerve needs to help citizens as well as patients become healthier”

Andy Beechener was next up offering a unique perspective about how SME’s can help to deliver IoT solutions on a city level. Andy discussed why those working on CityVerve need to build an evidence base for the benefits that technology can have for citizens. With only 2 years initial funding CityVerve is a relatively short project, and those involved must be realistic about the outcomes. Finally Andy highlighted the importance of not imposing technology on citizens and making sure we work with them where possible to develop solutions.

“It is Very important that we don't impose technology and that we work with practitioners and patients”

To conclude the panel talks, Gary Leeming spoke about the need for connected solutions and how the Datawell programme can help to create shared data across Manchester and beyond. Patient centred solutions were the side theme of the session and Gary spoke of the need for patient centred care and not disconnected solutions. Datawell welcomes new applications and very much follows on from Andy’s message of co-creation of solutions rather than one organisation pushing them through.

Panellists then faced questions from the packed out audience with the first up being the issue of new technology bringing new security risks. Panellists all agreed that there was a need to think about security when implementing new technology but that it was something CityVerve was considering carefully. The project now has a ‘Security and privacy committee’ that is attempting to manage the security concerns that it has so far faced.  Andy Beechener rightly pointed out that governance and security concerns shouldn’t stop new technology from improving people’s lives, and that we should never hide behind these concerns.

“The more we connect, the more vulnerable we become”

Further questions from the audience  asked what makes Manchester and CityVerve different to other ‘Smart City’ projects that have come before us. The claim was that CityVerve is creating joined up solutions rather than isolated solutions that has been seen in other demonstrators. Strengthening ideas of co-creation and a connected city are imperative to CityVerve and beyond.

"We've got an amazing IoT demonstrator that can go hand and hand with devolution

The biggest risk we face in Manchester is the changing face of local government funding. Using technology and joined up solutions in order to meet extra demand with fewer resources is something that should guide CityVerve in everything it does. Devolution in Greater Manchester can go hand in hand with the ‘smart cities’ revolution but it won’t happen automatically, it requires the co-creation of solutions and a people centred approach.