Cisco UK & Ireland Blog

CitySPIRE: the next generation of on-demand transport

October 25, 2017

Sometimes getting from A to B isn’t quite as easy as it should be.

Sometimes, getting from A to B means walking to C to get a bus via A to D, from where you catch a train that takes you to E – which is a short cab ride from B. And if you miss any of those connections then you’ll need a good book to read while you’re waiting.

Public transport is currently limited by existing infrastructure. It’s designed to serve stable trip patterns along fixed routes.

These routes typically extend outwards from a regional epicentre, connecting important destinations in the area with one another – but there’ll always be blindspots with this approach.

Demand doesn’t always align with what’s on offer. This leads to an increase in people either driving themselves or hailing a ride, which in turn results in congestion, longer travel times, greater expense, and dirtier air.

Part of the problem is in not knowing what people want.

With more information about the journeys people are making – or wanting to make – it would be possible to tailor services to meet the demand more accurately.

Enter CitySPIRE

This is exactly what we’re going to be doing with CitySPIRE.

It’s an 18-month research and development project led by the Cisco Innovation team, funded by Innovate UK, and with the express purpose of demonstrating the potential of demand-responsive transport.

Along with a consortium of partners including Transport for Greater Manchester, Location Sciences, Movement Strategies, Purple, and Simply Connect, we’ll be testing the value and viability of data-responsive mobility services.

That is, services that are based on real-time data that’s aggregated and analysed in order to provide an updated picture of where people want to go and when.

The project is based in Manchester – a city that hardly needs an introduction as a hub for innovation.

We’re already involved in a major smart city demonstrator project there, and it’s home to our brand new innovation centre, Mi-IDEA.

What does this look like in reality?

We’ll be developing, operating and evaluating a number of use cases across the project.

Firstly, we want to demonstrate the ability to predict and respond to demand with an appropriate supply of vehicles. That is, knowing when (and where) a bus is needed, and when (and where) something smaller might suffice.

With this, we’ll improve accessibility, passenger experience, sustainability, and footfall to popular destinations – all the while reducing congestion, and the road accidents that typically follow.

We’ll also be able to use the data being gathered and aggregated to better understand the profile of transport users: where they’re going, where they want to, how they want to get there, what they want to do when they arrive.

With this kind of information, providing a better, more personalised service becomes an obvious next step.

In the long term, our findings will inform how to improve transport infrastructure to more closely match people’s actual needs, and to make it more sustainable too.

A key challenge in all of this is that it requires data owners to share their data. Our cities are troves of the stuff, but much of it exists in siloes.

Part of our mission with CitySPIRE is to prove the value of data-sharing ecosystems: showing it to be not only a sustainable approach, but one that offers benefits to both commercial stakeholders and, most importantly, the people using their services.

Leave a comment


  1. Hi,

    I work for Leeds City Council on Smart Cities projects. This looks really good and I’m interested to find out more. I’m assuming you’ll be collecting both citizen and transport company data and trying to match the two up – is this correct? We’ve really struggled in getting bus companies to open up their data – have you found the same?

    Do you have a mailing list which you could add me to as it’d be great to be kept informed of how this project is progressing.

    Stephen Blackburn