The ‘Intelligence Hub’ will constitute a significant step forward - transforming how services are delivered and offering potential for revenue generation and trading
With a clear vision within their ‘Digital Strategy 2017/2020’ Southend Council laid the foundation to utilise technology to develop Southend as a Smart City. Key to that plan was to build an Intelligence Hub, to be both the ‘eyes and ears’ of the Borough and the ‘nerve centre’ through which service responses, manual or automated, can be triggered on a 24/7 basis building on the existing CCTV facility.
Southend-on-Sea lies on the north side of the Thames Estuary 40 miles to the east of central London. With a population of 180,000, Southend is the seventh most densely populated area in the UK outside of the London Boroughs.
The Council had drawn up a wide-ranging digital strategy targeting a number of areas as part of a wider aspiration to obtain ‘Smart City’ accreditation.
“Innovation is vital to the UK’s success as a global nation, and we are delighted to be playing a key role in this. We want to further enable our citizens and businesses to grow and evolve” said Nick Corrigan, head of digital futures at Southend-on-Sea Borough Council.
The Council were clear from the outset that “a local Authority alone could not deliver this strategy, indeed that partnerships and joint ventures with solution providers were vital” and that “challenges in respect of annual budget cycles and departmental silos which can make long term investment difficult across areas of multiple responsibility must be overcome”.
The Digital Strategy required the Council to adopt a ‘digital-by-default’ ethos in respect of its interactions with public, its internal processes and, wherever practicable service delivery. In addition to the enablement of infrastructure, the Council needed to create a locality to which monitoring of ‘people’ and ‘place‘ related events could be reported - the Southend ‘Intelligence Hub’.
“The creation of such a facility constitutes a significant step forward in the ability of the Council to transform the way in which services are delivered while, in longer term offering potential for revenue generation and trading.”
Included within a number of ‘proof of concept’ pilot projects for the Hub in 2017/18 was Community Safety - traditional CCTV services enhanced by additional functionality, with IP based systems linking the location of an incident and the location of those best placed to respond.
“The remote management of events across the Borough was to be achieved by the deployment of cameras, sensors or assistive technology with data being relayed back to the ‘Intelligence Hub’ using 3G/4G with the Intelligence Hub the ‘eyes and ears’ of the Borough, the ‘nerve centre’ through which service responses, manual or automated, can be triggered on a 24/7 basis.”
Working within a detailed Service Level Agreement, ShopSafe also bill the end users for the service and monitoring fees – generating a revenue income stream for the Hub - whilst delivering the service to the customer at a lower cost than the users paid for their original ‘steam-driven’ service!
ShopSafe were awarded a contract late in November 2017 to replace an aging shopwatch analogue radio system, with a new 3G/4G digital communications platform – unique to this environment. Building a radio network utilising all four of the major cellular networks layered together, we were able to achieve levels of in-building penetration that no single cell phone user can ever enjoy. With no infrastructure to build, antennas to locate or networks to establish, deployment was within a matter of days, well before the height of Christmas trading, and strictly within the ethos of the Council’s Digital Strategy.
Currently our ShopSafe Cellular solution has been rolled out to the existing shopwatch users – the retailers, pubs and clubs in Southend, plus a new extension to the scheme delivered to Leigh-on-Sea working the very next day! Wherever the Council wishes to operate cameras, or deliver any form of monitoring or communications – this network can be deployed instantly. For just a few hours for events or incidents, or permanently for new areas of operation. And that can be within the borough, or indeed anywhere in the country – there are no boundaries. Next up we are looking to other services such as parking services where we can take and deliver photographs and even video; waste management; traffic management; wardens; even monitoring control panels or intruder alarms.