MK:Smart really will change lives

Fri 14 Feb 2014

I’ve talked before about the MK:Smart project which will be getting underway in earnest at UCMK over the coming months and how it will tell us things we’ve never been able to calculate before about transport, water and energy supply in the city.  To a lot of people this might seem like something terribly lofty and scientific with little relevance to their everyday lives.  On a visit to one of our project partners I have seen the evidence that nothing could be further from the truth.

BT’s global research facility at Adastral Park near Ipswich is a place of wonders great and small.  The “big stuff” relating to giant networks is terribly exciting to folk like me, but it’s some of the smaller things which could be advanced and adapted by our project here in Milton Keynes which could make real differences to everyone.  We were shown a system which relates to queuing at the Post Office – something we have all no doubt spent many an hour wishing we didn’t have to do.  New technology could mean that rather than waiting our turn we could carry on with our shopping elsewhere and wait for a text alert to tell us we were nearing the front of the line for service. 

More significantly this interconnectedness could lead to saving lives.  Apparently, there are two kinds of medication given to stroke victims.  Which one is used depends on outward physical symptoms only readily interpreted by a specialist.  High risk patients could have video cameras set up at home and triggered by patient alarms.  The doctor viewing the pictures would immediately have a far better idea more quickly than ever before of what treatment was needed.
Also on the medical front, we were shown a pen-like instrument with an incredibly sensitive tip to it which could be used during an operation to transmit information to an expert surgeon thousands of miles away.  As the person on the scene moves the pen across various tissues the surgeon on the other side of the world can recognise precisely what it is touching and potentially direct the delicate work from afar.

All of this might seem a world away, but now all the key partners in the project have signed the Heads of Terms agreement we all know precisely what we are going to be doing to make it work.  Here at UCMK we’re preparing to have the physical architecture, the big computers which will drive everything, installed by the spring.  Onto that will be put the various applications, some proprietary and some brand new and developed specifically for this purpose.  Then the real work can begin inputting and cross-referencing the data.  Nobody really knows where that will take us.   The exciting possibilities BT has researched are just the start.  All we can say for certain is that the future in Milton Keynes will be smarter.

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