Inverness – a modern smart city

For those looking to huge urban agglomerations such as Shanghai – which this year hosted the Smart City Expo 2017 – or Seattle, a leader in technology that includes open data platforms, the “Smart City” label applied to Inverness may appear counterintuitive to some, lying as it does at the heart of a rurally expansive area.

Think again. Inverness, the capital of Scotland’s Highlands and Islands region is already integrating data and information flows between different providers with the same citizen engagement and information flows informing cities throughout the world.

Since the North Sea oil industry made Inverness an international destination for global companies, the city’s ambitions have been on an upward curve, including harnessing the ‘Internet of Things’ – a network and series of low-cost devices that will allow the council to reduce costs and collect more high-quality data in areas as diverse as smart parking, structural health in buildings, air pollution monitoring and asset tracking.

Data is key: Highland Council is committed to improving the use and reuse of data through an open data portal which will Increase transparency and improve relations and attitudes toward government and which, with the improvements in Wi-Fi access, will stimulate economic growth in the region.

With the University of the Highlands and Islands comprising 13 highly-regarded campuses and research institutions, plus a major regional supply chain industry servicing the (increasingly green) energy sector, the City of Inverness, a key partner in the Scottish Cities Alliance, is a modern and vibrant location. The new products and services built from new data and information are capitalising on exciting opportunities to build on that infrastructure.

Current Smart Projects in Inverness

All operations, with the exception of the WiFi are part funded through the European Regional Development Fund.

City WiFi (Ness WiFi)

Phase 1 of the public WiFi project, dubbed ‘Ness WiFi’ has been completed. The City WiFi project aims to provide free public WiFi to Inverness city centre and 14 towns across the Highland region with a view to expanding this even further at a later date.

Open Data Portal

The Highland Council aims to improve the use and reuse of data both within and out-with the council, through the implementation of an Open Data portal. This will allow for the uploading, storage and reuse of disparate data sets, provided by the council itself and a series of external agencies. A few of the benefits are:

  • Increased transparency
  • Improved council services through the use of open data
  • Re-use and increased value of data stimulating economic growth

Smart Waste

The Highland Council are engaging in a project designed to use hi-tech route optimisation software to create a better and more efficient approach to waste collection routes. Benefits expected are:

  • Reduction in operational costs
  • Potential reduction and redeployment of resource
  • Real-time information and in-cab devices allowing for continuous improvement of service
  • Potential for application of software to a number of other council services

Smart Mobility

The Highland Council are involved in a collaborative project with Highlands and Islands Transport Partnership (HITRANS) designed to make travel in the region as easy as possible. The project aims to implement the following improvements:

  • A flexible wireless mesh infrastructure allowing for smart traffic management, live traffic and public transport information
  • An improvement to bus stop signage, introducing smart elements, including NFC/QR codes and real-time information boards at selected stops
  • An update of parking meters, introducing smart elements to increase ease-of-use and flexibility for users

Future Projects

Internet of Things

The Highland Council is currently exploring the opportunities presented by the ‘Internet of Things’. A network and a series of low-cost devices will allow the council to reduce costs and gather greater amounts of higher quality data in areas as diverse as:

  • Smart Parking
  • Building Structural Health (vibrations etc)
  • Air Pollution Monitoring
  • Asset Tracking
  • Water Quality Monitoring

In addition, it will grant the council the opportunity to present applications to businesses, individuals and communities, allowing them to use the council’s network to reap the same benefits. Applications for business and the public could include:

  • Various agricultural applications (livestock monitoring, greenhouse micro-climate monitoring etc)
  • Toxic gas level monitoring
  • eHealth (Fall detection and other assisted living applications, sports monitoring)
  • Selective irrigation

Intelligent Street Lighting

The Highland Council’s Intelligent Street Lighting operation will aim to add to the council’s current street lighting plans, namely to convert 80% of the regions traditional sodium bulbs to LED lights.

The operation will aim to make greater use of street lighting columns and their interconnection, transforming street lighting from a single purpose asset to a platform that can support a number of Smart Cities functions and services.

All of these projects will help the city of Inverness further develop its already modern and vibrant atmosphere, with new products and services built from the data and information produced.

The region’s diverse geographic and demographic make-up, including large sections of relatively rural surroundings, as well as more population-dense areas like the city of Inverness itself, present the opportunity to try new projects in a number of different areas, allowing technology companies to explore largely city-based concepts like Mobility as a Service in more rural and geographically expansive areas.