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Always at the forefront of innovation, Milton Keynes is the newest, fastest growing city in the UK, offering excellent employment diversity and activity. The Knowledge Media Institute (KMI) at the Open University is a data science research and development lab. Alan Fletcher, business development manager at KMI, explains how the MK:Smart project continues to shape the future of Milton Keynes.

Founded in 2014, MK:Smart was funded partly by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), whilst the remainder of funding came from partners. MK has benefitted immensely from the vision of the local authority. MK Council have a Director of Strategy and Future, Geoff Snelson, who has been instrumental in ensuring that the city brings together government, academia, industry and citizens to help shape the future of ML.

Mobility of the future

Smart activities developed and implemented in MK first relate to mobility. It was in MK that the first fully electric bus route was built in the UK, using wireless induction loop charging in the road. MK was also the first city to have a fully dedicated non-road-based network (of over 270 km) for cycling and walking, called the ‘redways’. The £20m UK Autodrive project is running the UK’s most significant trials of autonomous transport, including a  a city-scale network of artifical intelligence (AI)-enabled video sensors helping to learn about traffic movement and prediction, a fully-equipped electric vehicle (EV) showroom with long-term user test drive programmes, and a large network of EV charging infrastructure.

MK Data Hub

MK:Smart was designed to help the understanding and interoperability of projects and demonstrators in the fields of transport, energy, water, business and citizen engagement. The MK Data Hub is more about creating a network which enables the interconnected parts to talk to each other and to increase the understanding they have of one another. The MK Data Hub creates an architecture which allows for further investigation, experimentation and research, in order to understand the benefits which may not be apparent in the individual projects.

MK:Smart’s education programme

The education work stream within the MK:Smart project resulted in the creation of the globally accessible Smart City MOOC, hosted on the FutureLearn platform, and engagement with local schools to create Urban Data Schools, exploring the purpose and use of data in city scenarios.

Milton Keynes continues to build on the success of MK:Smart, developing a network of people and organisations, alongside the technical and physical architecture – computing and data – in order to create other kinds of education-focused activities. For example, The Open University Gustave A Larson is part of the Institute of Coding, a UK national initiative to develop new skills in a changing digital economy, as well as engaging in knowledge exchange activities with citizens, business and government.

Engaging citizens

Community mobilisers from the charity Community Action: ML are accumulation grass roots intelligence, actively going out and talking to people across the city, seeking their opinions and working to identify problems.

An online platform called Our MK was designed to allow people to submit suggestions about the future of Milton Keynes. Through this platform, some ideas received funds, such as citizen-based experiments for small-scale solar panels for 12v lighting in houses.

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