“Everyone talks about the smart city” but the reality still feels like a distant mirage. The size of the opportunities is only matched by the scale and complexity of the changes.

What if you could prototype a smart city? Research, design and evaluate how to implement new services and technologies. What if you could use a University, the place of research by excellence, to test smart city approaches on itself? This is exactly what the University of Glasgow is setting out to do with its new Smart Campus, prompted by the return of the Western Infirmary site to the University.

When Future Cities Catapult commissioned Snook to help the University organise a business event around the Smart Campus, we set out to design the event as a service to the University and to the participants. We engaged with over 30 people through a series of interviews; an online survey and a workshop; gathering insights and working together to shape the event and maximise the value it might bring.

A Smart Campus, in a smart city and smarter world

The idea that emerged from Snook’s engagement was to gather and connect people interested in the wider context of smart city to exchange ideas and projects, identifying new ways to collaborate and support each other. “Once nurtured over time, would these connections help make the smart city a reality?”

This was the aim of the Smart Campus Awareness and Networking Event which took place on 19 May 2016 at Cottiers in Glasgow, created by Snook with the support of Future Cities Catapult.
In the beautiful setting of Cottiers, a stone’s throw  away from the University, Snook gathered 80 participants from a wide range of backgrounds (University, supporting organisations, corporates and SMEs).

Using the giant name badges and a sticker game, Snook challenged participants to make as many new and relevant connections as possible.

Image: Snook

Image: Snook

Participants were asked to explore and map possible futures together, and contributing their insights into a giant future tech and behaviours timeline, designed especially for the event. This activity prompted them to consider what technological, social, economical and environmental changes might happen over the next 30 years, how these might affect our lives and the cities we live in.

Image: Snook

Image: Snook

Nicola Cameron (Assistant Director of Estates Strategy) presented the vision and the plans for the Smart Campus. With over 30,000 staff and students on site every day, the University is the size of a small city, with the added benefit of controlling most of the supporting services – the very ones the smart city approach aims to transform. She explains the University’s focus on smart infrastructure, integrating new and historic estate, physical and digital infrastructure, improved energy optimisation and sensors.

Paul Georgie (Project abstract) captivated the audience with the images taken by “Aimee”, a fixed-wing drone flying above the University to capture near-real-time geographic information with a resolution of just 3cm. The data it captures creates a new wave of datasets, from hyper-local flood modelling, potential solar PV system locations, or the state of the moss on the Kelvin Grove roof!

Image: Snook

Image: Snook

Paul Younger (Rankine Chair of Engineering talked about District Heating)  (video)

Paul introduced the recently completed £21m district heating system developed by the University of Glasgow. A unique opportunity to optimise energy consumption and reduce carbon footprint, pioneering new ways of storing heat generated by buildings (for example data centres) to achieve a smarter energy management system in the future Smart Campus and wider context of smart cities.

William Nixon – Digital Library Development Manager (video)
William presented the development of the new Learning and Teaching Hub and how data analytics, experimentation and ethnographic research play a key role in improving the students experience while fostering innovation within the Smart Campus context.

Matthew Chalmers – Professor of Human-Computer Interaction (presentation)
The focus should not just be on the place of the new campus but also about people and purpose. It is an opportunity to design new forms of education, work and community. However, we need evidence-based approaches to implement this strategy. This is the role of the new Quantified Campus, constantly generating the data to uncover new findings adapt the campus in an informed and iterative way.

Matthew HiggsChief Data Officer at Dynamically Loaded (presentation)
How can organisations and innovators work together to solve problems and retrofit innovation in existing buildings. How do you help students and visitors navigate around the campus, discover local opportunities, facilitate meetings, or geo-reference mobile sensor data? It all starts with a large-scale indoor-positioning system, as the University has just implemented.

Keith Dingwall – Senior Business Manager at The Urban Big Data Centre (presentation)
The UBDC helps build capacity inside organisations, promoting innovative ways in which data can be used to address current and future behavioural and environmental challenges faced by cities.

Closing remarks: Simon Earp – Head of Knowledge Exchange at The University of Glasgow
From visions to actions: Simon encouraged participants to take actions, build a knowledge network and work together to make the Smart Campus a reality.

These talks triggered a busy session of discussions and networking. Participants quickly identified people they could talk to or facilitate connections with each other – supported by their action cards, designed to help turn intentions into actions.

“Come there’s somebody I need to introduce you to”

Image: Snook

Image: Snook


We are in the process of analysing the material from what was a very busy event. Stay tuned and subscribe to the newsletter to hear all about it.

89% of attendees said they were very or extremely likely to attend similar events in the future, confirming the original research findings. So stay tuned, we’re working hard to make it happen in September 2016.

25 May 2016