Sheffield IoT Meetup #2: Connected cities and smart buildings


Mark Davies from Ioetec introduced the theme for the second Sheffield IoT Meetup, sponsored by Pitch-In, considering the hugely complicated environment that makes up connected cities and smart buildings.

Mark introduced the five speakers for the evening from the University of Sheffield, ARUP, Smart Sheffield, Sheffield Hallam University and Binary Forge. If you missed out, details and videos of these presentations are available below and slides can be shared on request – email:

Interested in joining the group? Sign up via the Meetup site!

1. Ramsay Taylor – Department of Computer Science at the University of Sheffield – The Diamond Building

Ramsay Taylor introduced the Diamond building itself, the venue for the meetup and a smart building in itself .

Ramsay shared his own real-world experiences of the day-to-day challenges faced when developing and managing a smart building. Some of these issues include conflicting priorities, regulations and timescales with the building industry itself and the reality of capturing and making use of data from 3,000 sensors.

“It’s key to use IoT to enable better control rather than just introducing more smart sensors. Just adding sensors is not the end of the job – the key is to put the data to use.”

2. Steve Turner – Digital Cities Lead at ARUP – Digital Master Planning for Smart Cities

Steve Turner explored how city master planners and developers are starting to harness new technology, but posed the question ‘if technology is the answer, what was the question?’

A number of challenges are faced across cities, such as productivity, competitiveness and the need for cities to continually deliver better outcomes for the citizens at a lower cost. Steve highlighted a number of locations that are starting to look at these opportunities and establishing engaging ways to involve and interact with the local community, such as the Christchurch in New Zealand post the 2011 earthquake.

Less positive examples include SongDo, a smart city development in South Korea, which demonstrates the problems caused when citizens themselves aren’t at the heart of the planning process.

“People are at the heart of digital strategies, not the technology.”

3. Chris Dymond – Smart Sheffield – How smart is Sheffield?

Chris provided an overview of the approach he took to try and answer this question. In 2014 Chris, alongside numerous other partners and contributors, set about producing a report which detailed the existing landscape alongside a recommended roadmap of ideas and opportunities, some of which are now in place and some are still needing further development.

Crucially Chris wanted to define what a distinctive ‘smart’ identity for Sheffield would look like and the key themes within it, highlighting that the key is to take ownership of the agenda and communicate clearly across the city, nationally and internationally how Sheffield wants to use technology.

Chris discussed the challenge of measuring success for smart cities. Huawei ranked Sheffield the 10th smartest city in the UK in 2016, but by 2017 Sheffield had fallen down to 16. There is now no universally accepted way to measure a smart city.

Following the report, many significant and successful assets have since been developed across the city – such as the Urban Flows Observatory, Sheffield Digital and the Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre alongside the development of Sheffield City Council’s Connectivity Strategy and a number of meetups such as this one and Smart Sheffield. DotShef was also developed, presenting a means of documenting and self assessing what’s going on across domains.

What needs to happen next though? The city needs to commit strategically to this work and engage a broad ecosystem – clear leadership is required to provide a ‘point-person’ for this agenda alongside engagement of the local population.

“So how smart is Sheffield? Much smarter than it was, even when it was ranked 10th in the UK, but still not as smart as it could be. What’s needed is leadership and a renewed commitment to what already exists.”

4. Daniela Petrelli – Professor of Interaction Design at Sheffield Hallam University – Smart interaction and design to bridge the physical-digital divide

Daniela presented a different side to smart cities, demonstrating how design and technology can be used to enhance the user experience across museums and heritage sites.

“IoT can be used in a meaningful way to design experiences that seamlessly combine the physical collections and the multimedia content.”

An example included installations across Europe developed in collaboration with a Netherlands museum using MeSch technology. MeSch, Material EncounterS with digital Cultural Heritage, has the goal of designing, developing and deploying tools for the creation of tangible interactive experiences that connect the physical dimension of museums and exhibitions with relevant digital cross-media information in novel ways.

As an output of the project a toolkit has been developed allowing cultural heritage professionals the freedom to develop their own tailored interactive experiences, acquiring and utilising visitor feedback.

(Apologies for the reduced video quality)

5. Matthew Roberts – CTO at Binary Forge – Smart buildings – flexing for the future

Matthew focused on how to select technologies that enable buildings to be flexible for the future, looking at a couple of key factors that should influence decision making giving the best opportunity for the technology in a building to evolve with a building.

Whether developing a new building or renovating an existing structure, technology is going to be a key part of this. It’s unlikely one system will deliver on all your needs, with cost understandably playing a big role in the decision making process alongside other key factors.

How do you approach integration of different systems to allow data and control to pass between the two? How are upgrades managed and what supplier support is available?

Matthew highlighted how the history and pedigree of a supplier will allow you to mitigate some of the risk that comes with working at the bleeding edge of technology. Successful integration between partners can dramatically increase potential for the building, and its purpose, to expand.

(Apologies for the reduced video quality)