The following article is based on an interview conducted with Chris Roberts from Winchester City Council (WCC) leading on the Digital Winchester projects, by Chris Cooper from KnowNow Information (Smart Cities expert and practitioner) who is helping Winchester become smarter.
When Winchester city decided to make the transition and become a smart city, their application of the PAS 184 standard ‘Delivering Successful Smart City Projects’ developed through the City Standards Institute by Future Cities Catapult and the BSI, meant delivery of the project was seamless.
Bringing historic Winchester into the 21st century
When one thinks of Winchester, it’s easy to call to mind an archetypical rural English cathedral city, nestled on the borders of the South Downs National Park. But that belies its close proximity to the more obviously future-facing urban hubs of London, Portsmouth and Southampton – all no more than a reasonable commute away – not to mention its thriving local economy and active arts scene.
All of which highlighted the urgency of bringing the district into the 21st century via a number of ‘smart city’ projects, the first of which aimed to harness data and create a new digital infrastructure.
Digital Winchester – a Smart district
Winchester City Council (WCC) recognised that advances in digital infrastructure, applications and analytics enabled new, better and more cost-effective services to residents, business and visitors that would also increase productivity and realise new economic benefits (e.g. increased spend per head in the city, increased probability of repeat visits etc.).
As such, in its first phase, the ‘Digital Winchester – a Smart district’ programme encompassed projects that include smart mobility, smart health and smart buildings, and has seen the launch of two distinct yet intertwined projects in its first phase:• delivery of a new city centre Wi-Fi service• commission of a new visitor experience app.
Setting the Standard for Smart City Projects
With a bold vision for what could be achieved, coupled with a broad range of needs, experience and skillsets across the stakeholder group, success was very much contingent upon creating a common platform for engagement – which in the Digital Winchester project meant the application of a standards-based approach to implementing the programme, specifically PAS 184 ‘Delivering Successful Smart City Projects as developed through the City Standards Institute by Future Cities Catapult and BSI.
The use of PAS 184’s structured assessment method had benefits for both the city team and the smart cities practitioner/consultant. As well as 100% buy-in to the standards-based approach by the city team, the project also enjoyed enthusiastic engagement from all the city stakeholders. It also helped Winchester City Council broaden their visibility into every aspect of the project. Chris Roberts, WCC Digital Winchester lead, cited PAS 184 as helping the team to “think more externally, and highlighted the need to bring in the other city stakeholders”.
Putting the standards into practice
The PAS 184 approach started with scoping sessions that created a set of cross-stakeholder storyboards that defined the Digital Winchester vision, from which was created a joined up and agreed set of requirements. These requirements were then matched against the city’s metrics for success, which created a feedback loop that consistently measured deliverables against objectives and ensured the project remained on track. This focused project alignment in turn ensured the alignment of its people, processes, and data processing tech as well. There are countless benefits to this approach, many of which are detailed in the Key Benefits of applying PAS 184 section below.
This standards-based approach also ensured that the project’s value to external stakeholders was also maximised. For example, the Winchester BID community gained an extra sales channel to promote their members’ offers and services. It also highlighted the importance of training and access provision – critical factors for successful delivery all too frequently overlooked in non-standardised project management.
Digital Winchester into the future
These two Digital Winchester projects successfully delivered the first step in Winchester’s journey towards its innovative future – and away from its parochial past. As well as establishing a new free-to-access digital connection provided by the new Wi-Fi service, it will also generate new connections and data points that can be used to generate new insight for future developments. The new visitor app meanwhile will add a new and immersive digital aspect to Winchester’s rich cultural history, by bringing stories for visitors and residents alike.
And looking ahead, the successful launch of these first projects has a host of opportunities for the future. As well as new digital information channels such as digital signage, the expansion of city-wide digital services to citizens as well as visitors, this new Digital mindset will in time trickle down to individual city assets – for example, the new leisure centre being commissioned as a ‘smart building’.
But the greatest success of the project is in fact the embedding of the Digital mindset itself. It is this new outlook that will ensure the city’s capacity to be ‘smart’ will evolve and innovate organically with the times and ensure that Winchester is never again left behind.
Key benefits and successes of the Digital Winchester project
• Improved insight for the local business community on who visits Winchester
• Improved information delivery and a more interactive experience for visitors
• Increase likelihood of repeat visits and longer visitor stays/spend in the city
• The new visitor experience app will support local business growth.
• New opportunities for UK business, including:
• New content for augmented reality storytelling
• Detailed analysis of footfall data and new marketing techniques to connected citizens.
• Data and insights saleable to other cities in the UK and beyond.
Key benefits of applying PAS 184 to Digital Winchester
• Ensured buy-in from the city leadership team to the smart city vision and adoption plan
• Recognised and facilitated access to the plan by other collaborators in the city region too (e.g. Winchester BID)
• Broadened the scope and definition for future projects
• Highlighted gaps in terms of participants, governance and tasks needed to deliver a smart city• Provided focus, structure and evidence to support case for best practice
• Saved time and money – this evidence-based approach helped re-scope the programme to be more realistic, which in turn helped define more reasonable and affordable objectives
• It helped triage the various different technical options by providing a sense of cost versus benefit, which helped define requirements for tenders, and therefore project delivery to budget and timelines• Ensured checks and balances (such as ‘Privacy by Design’ principles) which enshrined the concerns of residents, workers and visitors.
About KnowNow Information Smart Cities Service
Over a decade of hands-on experience innovating and delivering smart city projects and helped to create PAS 181 (which has subsequently become ISO37106) “Sustainable cities and communities — Guidance on establishing smart city operating models for sustainable communities”
The service that KnowNow provides ensures that good quality digital projects – i.e. smart city projects that the market can deliver – are commissioned with requirements that are joined up and outcome-focused which, along with clearly defined project governance, creates a collaborative and interoperable plan.
KnowNow was commissioned by Winchester City Council to be their trusted smart city advisor.