Cambridge hits the Smart Cities big time


Cambridge made it into the top 10 of Huwaei’s UK Smart Cities index for the first time last year, showing the rapid progress of the pioneering Smart Cambridge programme.

Using data and emerging technology to address increasing problems of congestion and mobility are key challenges for Smart Cambridge, which is led by Cambridgeshire County Council as part of the Connecting Cambridgeshire digital infrastructure programme.

Smart Cambridge is working with the Greater Cambridge Partnership including local councils and other partners to develop innovative ways to give residents, commuters and visitors real-time travel information to make their journeys easier and encourage the greater use of public transport.

Other transport-related projects include the development of Mobility as a Service (Maas) within Greater Cambridge, the potential role of autonomous vehicles, and looking at new mobility models.


Appsolutely brilliant

Last month Smart Cambridge launched a new mobile travel app and smart wayfinding screens to help residents, commuters and visitors plan their journeys and encourage them to travel more sustainably.

Free to download to smart phones, the new MotionMap travel app brings together real-time and local timetable information to accurately predict travel times and suggest the best routes using a mix of buses, trains, walking and cycling.

Developed with Cambridge-based company, Building Intellect, the app also has a carbon counter and invites feedback from users to improve functionality and add new features through regular upgrades.

Smart screens (pictured) showing the latest travel updates and useful visitor information are also being trialled at key transport interchanges to make it easier for people to find their way around the city.

The city’s first digital wayfinding screens have gone up outside Cambridge Station providing much-needed signposting for visitors, with more screens due to be trialled at Trumpington Park and Ride site over the summer.

Smart Panel lobby screens are also being installed in the foyers of public buildings and large employers, including Cambridgeshire CC’s headquarters and Astra Zeneca’s offices in Cambridge, offering specific travel and other information for staff and visitors.

The app and screens are all using real-time travel and static data collated through the Intelligent City Platform (iCP) that Smart Cambridge has developed with the University of Cambridge. Bus and train times, traffic monitors, air quality readings, and cycle sensors are just some of the thousands of pieces of data being processed and analysed daily to predict traffic movements and provide real-time information, together with other data sources such as Google Transit, Twitter feeds and weather reports.

Challenges and solutions

Smart Cambridge programme manager Dan Clarke, who won this year’s Smart Cities UK Leadership Award for his work in making Cambridge a front runner for the Smartest City in the UK, explains some of the challenges involved.

‘To be persuaded to shift to sustainable modes of transport, travellers need to have confidence in using public transport, including having better information and certainty about their journeys. People are increasingly reliant on getting information through their phones, and they have much higher customer expectations from their experience of digital platforms using real-time data and "one click" payments.

‘Accurate bus arrival times are one of the key bits of information required, particularly where buses are infrequent. However, predicting bus locations and journey times is more complex and challenging than other forms of public transport because buses are contending with traffic flows that are unpredictable, particularly in a busy city.

‘Investing in the development of a free-to-use multi-operator, multi-modal travel app for Greater Cambridge has helped us to better understand these challenges, working with operators and other smart cities to stimulate the market and improve journey planning options for customers.

‘In the longer term, we envisage that the travel planning tools will be provided commercially alongside developing concepts such as MaaS - bringing together real-time data, ticketing and the ability to pay for packages of transport.’

Driverless shuttle 

Cambridge is also on track to be the first city in the UK to have a groundbreaking autonomous shuttle service as part of its public transport network, after a successful bid to develop trial vehicles with £3.2m funding from the Centre of Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV), delivered by Innovate UK.

Over the next two years, Aurrigo will develop six 10-15-seater self-driving shuttles to trial on the southern section of the existing segregated Busway, as an out-of-hours service running between Trumpington Park and Ride and Cambridge Station, via the strategically important Cambridge Biomedical Campus.

If successful, autonomous vehicles could then be rolled-out elsewhere round Greater Cambridge, for example to link some of the science and business campuses to each other or to rural travel hubs.

To find out more visit or email the Smart Cambridge team at

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