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Will Hyper/CAT Be the Secret Engine Behind Smart Cities Worldwide?

HyperCAT logo

Hyper/CAT! It sounds like some kind of super powered feline, but if a certain group of people in the UK have their way it will be even more powerful than that. For Hyper/CAT it is an emerging new standard, rather like HTML, but for the Internet of Things. It will help everything that is in a smart city talk to everything else.

If it were to become globally applicable then all cities in the world would be one day interoperable, connectable, and able to use the same technology. In other words, all the machines, in all the cities, would be able to talk to each other. Is that good or scary?

Hyper/CAT is being developed by a consortium of commercial organisations under the umbrella of the InnovateUK Internet of Things (IoT) Interoperability Demonstrator Program.

InnovateUK is the new name for Technology Strategy Board. It receives government funding to kickstart emerging technologies that might be good for the British economy in the future. It runs competitions for the funding, such as the new £9 million one to find collaborative R&D projects that will deliver accessible, cost-effective and easy-to-use services for transport users

Back to Hyper/CAT. The British Standards Institute will publish an independent Publicly Available Specification (PAS) based on the Hyper/CAT Standard in 2015. The idea is an open source protocol that will prevent commercial companies independently developing systems that then can't talk to systems developed by other companies.

In a measure of how important the British government thinks this is for its economy, particularly in exports, there is an All Party Parliamentary Group devoted to it, which has received funding from just about every interested company you might think of.

(If you're interested, here's the list: Ove Arup and Partners, World Energy Council, Schneider Electric, S&C Electric Europe, Navigant Research, Greener Energy Options, Hitachi Rail Europe Ltd, Microsoft,, BRE Group, Silver Spring Network, Skanska, Huwawei Technologies Ltd, Dow International, Intel and Arqiva.)

The group started in May of last year. The chair of the committee is Dan Byles, a Conservative MP. He happens to be a believer in sustainable cities. While speaking on the value of Hyper/CAT to smart cities at a meeting yesterday at the House of Lords, he said: "if we want a sustainable planet we need sustainable cities". (See #HyperCatCity on Twitter).

The point of the #HyperCatCity event was to unify the data requirements of smart city leaders and industry experts. The standard was launched at the event by Lord Erroll. Andrew Collinge, Assistant Director of the Greater London Authority and the London Datastore (which holds open data on London) said that the HyperCatCity standard will be a vital part of the expected UK smart city infrastructure spending budget worth £1.3 trillion.

Worldwide, the spending on smart city infrastructure could reach $408 billion (£270 billion) per year by 2020 according to a 2013 BIS research paper.

HyperCAT graphic

What is #HyperCatCity?

According to the website, HyperCatCity (@hypercatiot) is a new collaboration of over 300 technology vendors and service providers working with cities and trade bodies, to create a modular solution framework to address some of the major challenges and opportunities facing cities.

It extends the HyperCat Consortium work and ecosystem to support a scale-up initiative driven by leading technology vendors.

It is led by Flexeye, a British technology company. Flexeye were identified by Gartner as a "vendor to watch because they could form an ecosystem in the area of IoT in public infrastructure": Gartner (Sept 2014)

The aim of it all is for the standard to deliver real value to cities and citizens, while promoting choice for buyers. Nevertheless, all partners in the consortium will be jealously guarding their IP.

Whereas html and the associated protocols are open source, #HyperCatCity says that "background IP is of course fully protected. Foreground IP will be registered by those who created it and an agreement will be established around its exploitation". Meanwhile Flexeye owns the #HyperCatCity trademark.

Justin Anderson at HyperCATCity meetng

Justin Anderson (left) at the HyperCAT City launch.

Justin Anderson is the CEO of Flexeye and if anyone is to be the Tim Berners-Lee of HyperCat, then it would be him, because he has a similar scale of vision.

But the beauty of the web is that html and all the other bits of code that make it run so well are not owned by anyone. Berners-Lee developed html then gave it away for the common good.

Smart cities, in order to work, must be inclusive and accessible. They must empower their citizens. This is part of the meaning of 'sustainability'.

While it's good that HyperCAT will be a British Standard, it remains to be seen whether it will be as truly open source as is html. We all know that is the way to speedily unleash humanity's creativity. If it is it will be a good thing. If not, well, it could be scary.