Arup: Intelligent connectivity reshaping urban mobility

01 April 2015 Consultancy.uk

Intelligent connectivity, which enables the mutual exchange of data between individuals and smart systems, will reshape urban mobility in the future, research by Arup and Qualcomm Technologies shows. According to the study, the increasing amount of data will allow for a smarter, healthier and safer urban mobility.

Professional services firm Arup, in collaboration with Qualcomm Technologies*, recently released a new report into future urban mobility, titled ‘Intelligent Connectivity for Seamless Urban Mobility’. In the research, the two firms highlight the current challenges of urban mobility, suggest technological, infrastructure, and policy solutions, and distil explorations of the future. Their main conclusion: future mobility will not only be safer, but will also come with better experiences, enhanced safety and a near zero environmental impact. 

Arup and Qualcomm Technologies, Intelligent Connectivity for Seamless Urban Mobility

Changing urban mobility
In the world of today, cities struggle with the challenges of the rapidly increasing urbanisation, density growth, resource constraints, evolving expectations for liveability and resilience, technological convergence, and the progressively volatile climate. All of these issues need to be considered in the planning and development of “efficient, resilient and scalable mobility systems.”

According to the report, these challenges can be surmounted by the increasing availability of data on the patterns of city life. As a result of this data, a more efficient and accessible urban existence can be shaped through new choices for individual trip-making, better information for smarter decision-making, and system optimisation to utilise infrastructure efficiently. This new vision combines a wide range of emerging technologies to enable smarter, healthier, more resilient, and economically robust urban life.

Intelligent connectivity reshaping urban mobility

Intelligent connectivity
The researchers indicate that key to this vision of urban mobility is ‘Intelligent Connectivity’, which refers to “the sum of the systems, services, and technologies connecting people, data, and infrastructure” that enable the symbiotic exchange of data between individuals and smart systems. In their report, four examples of user’s experiences of an Intelligently Connected city of the 2030s are detailed, projecting possible ways in which the future of mobility is likely to differ from today’s systems. Consultancy.uk offers a brief summary of each of the four scenarios: 

Usership vs. ownership
Challenges coupled to the exponential increase in urban populations, such as air quality, traffic congestion, and inefficient parking systems, are becoming more pressing. As a result of this, the researchers expect concepts like bike and car sharing, integrated door-to-door transport solutions and intermodality, activated through intelligently connected devices, to become commonplace.

Usership versus Ownership & Real-time Data Ecosystem

Real-time data ecosystem
The second scenario is the ‘real-time data ecosystem’, which refers to the dependency of people on technological advancements for the right information at the right time. According to the researchers, the invisible systems that accompany people will become an extension of their decision-making processes, referring to it as a “digital sixth sense”. Cities and service providers in this scenario will deliver services that utilise smart technologies to meet the demands on infrastructure and be alerted to deficiencies in the system. 

Bridging the Digital Divide
In the digitally connected world, an increasing aging population may have greater difficulty navigating the digital infrastructure intended to make their lives more convenient. The researchers highlight a scenario in which personal devices and wearable technologies are manufactured at a lower cost in order to provide basic services to a wider demographic, with an emphasis on seamlessly connected experiences. As an example, they describe mobility as a free service, where value becomes subsidised in the price of other targeted services to which users subscribe, and telepresence concierge services to span the generational divide. 

Bridging the Digital Divide & Safe Travels

Safe travels
(Cyber) security and privacy are becoming more and more an issue when providing for a seamless user experience through networked systems. A balance between physical security and ease of access, and between data security and appropriate transparency is crucial. When this is achieved, the researchers note, such networked, integrated systems have the potential to reduce congestion, optimise climate and health conditions, and reduce the number and severity of physical and digital threats.

The report concludes: “To achieve these [scenarios] by 2030, a diverse range of stakeholders need to expand how they think about integrated mobility as well as how data is generated, secured and used, while ensuring that infrastructure and policy are continuously upgraded. [...] We will need ubiquitous, secure data generation and collection, while supporting data co-dependency. We will need a commitment to getting more out of existing hard infrastructure, including an accelerated upgrade pace. And we will need to incentivise good behaviour, through policies that acknowledge both the rapid evolution of technology and urban citizens’ habits and expectations.”

* Qualcomm Technologies is subsidiary of Qualcomm, an American global semiconductor company that designs and markets wireless telecommunications products and services. Qualcomm Technologies operates all of Qualcomm’s engineering, research and development functions, and substantially all of its products and services.

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Manchester Mayor criticised for £250,000 consulting spend

19 March 2019 Consultancy.uk

The Mayor of Greater Manchester has been criticised for splurging hundreds of thousands of pounds on consulting fees before determining that the region’s fire brigade must slash its budget by millions. Andy Burnham put more than £250,000 towards work from ten consulting firms as part of a review into the region’s emergency services.

Despite the continued argument that projects like the Northern Powerhouse initiative are helping to address the North-South divide in the UK, statistics still show that the North has borne the brunt of austerity in England. Northern English cities have been disproportionately affected, with their spending cut on average by a fifth since 2010, while cities in the south and east of England had average losses of 9%.

The impact of spending cuts has been keenly felt in Greater Manchester in particular, where local government spending has fallen by as much as £650 per person since 2009 in some parts of the region. As the area looks to find further savings, while the Central Government continues to fail to deliver on its pledge to end austerity, it has been announced that the fire brigade for Greater Manchester faces a reduction of up to £10 million from its budget.

The swingeing cuts to hit the emergency service would likely see its fleet of fire engines reduced from 56 to 47, while six fire stations face closure, and 113 support staff could suffer the axe. The news follows an investigation from Mayor Andy Burnham, which was triggered in part by the admission of Chief Fire Officer, Jim Wallace, that since 2015 the service has failed to deliver “its own efficiency plan”.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham spent £268,300 to review the city’s fire service

The review itself has been far from inexpensive, however, and it has led some to accuse Burnham of hypocrisy. During the review of the fire service, which has delivered demands for the service to find major efficiency savings, the Greater Manchester Mayor reportedly splurged £268,300 in public funds on consulting work for his root-and-branch review.

According to local newspaper Manchester Evening News, Burnham tasked ten different consultancies with helping to compile the review, receiving payments ranging from £101,000 to £7,000. The largest amount was handed to Leicester headquartered P. Cooper & Associates for the expertise of a “senior change and transformation programme specialist,” while it was reported that another of the consultants gave “guidance on leadership and culture”.

A Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) spokesman said of the spending: “The Programme for Change programme has required input from specialists who are expert in areas such as organisational transformation, operating models for fire safety and estates.”

Manchester’s fire brigade was criticised in 2017 when, in the wake of the Manchester Arena bombing, a report by Lord Kerslake noted crews had been held back from helping. Contrary to helping deliver a more efficient service, Unison has told the press that it believes the proposed cuts will make the residents of Greater Manchester “less safe”. With the expenditure of the review on private sector consultants now public, meanwhile, the union has slammed the report for throwing away public funds while jeopardising vital public sector work.

Unison represents the 113 staff who may lose their jobs, and a spokesperson for the union told Manchester Evening News, "It's disappointing that when finances are clearly tight, priority has been given to hiring external consultants rather than engaging with the workforce. This will be a shock to our members who were only told on Monday their jobs were at risk."

In recent years, a succession of local authorities have come under fire from officials and the general public for their consulting spending in the UK. Earlier in 2019, a freedom of information request by The Times revealed that local councils across the UK have spent around £400 million on consulting firms in the last year alone. According to the report, this represents a rise of more than a fifth since 2014, with critics using the figures to call into question the value added by engaging external expertise.

Commenting on the criticism many councils face, Tamzen Isacsson Chief Executive, Management Consultancies Association, said, “Consultants play a vital role in the public sector, [providing] transformational impacts, innovation and increased efficiency… Vital front line services continue to operate uninterrupted [while] consultants often help local authorities get better results with less money. As the MCA awards this year demonstrate consultants are delivering social benefits across the UK – from work on getting better outcomes for children in care to finding better processes for finding homes for vulnerable families in London these examples offer a true reflection of the consulting excellence that operates across the UK to the benefit of councils and the wider society.”