IN DEPTH: Smart cities are a recent innovation. How does a local authority harness the benefits?
The smart city concept is attracting significant interest in the world of technology, enterprise and public services. By harnessing connected technology and sensors, governments can streamline the way cities are run, saving money and making them more efficient as a result.
While many people talk about the benefits, the fact is, smart cities are relatively new. And a lot of people still need to be convinced on their merits and value. Investing in this tech can often be seen as a gamble, even if smart cities already have a proven track record.
Sometimes, it’s not even the money that’s the main concern for governments and councils. Smart cities need a lot of complex tech, infrastructure and systems to be able to return positive outcomes. As you can imagine, implementing it all can take time and skill. However, building a perfect smart city is possible.
Read More: Where are the UK’s smart cities?
Making cities smarter
In the face of growing populations, budget cuts and other issues, cities and their citizens face enormous challenges on a daily basis. But technological solutions have the potential to alleviate this pressure. There’s now innovation that can make cities more sustainable, efficient and easier to navigate.
Cisco is one of the tech giants working on innovation for use in smart cities. Alison Vincent, CTO of the company’s operations in the UK and Ireland, explains that countries all around the world are looking to the latest technological innovation to make their cities smarter.
“The number of urban residents continues to grow by nearly 60 million every year. This puts increasing strain on already heavily pressurised resources and infrastructure. We are therefore seeing more and more cities turn to technology to help solve some of these challenges,” she says.
“By collecting and analysing information about the urban landscape around us, innovative technologies are helping us to make our cities smarter, improving city mechanics and helping us to overcome issues specific to that city environment, from access to public services to traffic congestion.”
Strong partnerships needed
Creating a successful smart city is far from easy. There are so many things governments need to get right, and because of this, it’s important that they form partnerships with other organisations. Vincent says partnerships should be based on expertise, covering both public and private sector companies.
“For a smart city to be successful, partnerships between public, private sector organisations and companies with extensive expertise in the field are key to establishing a well-balanced smart city that understands the challenges faced by its unique inhabitants,” she tells us.
“Manchester’s CityVerve project is being delivered by a consortium of 21 organisations – including Cisco, Manchester City Council and, BT with an aim to bring together the brightest minds and pioneering use of Internet of Things technologies. In turn, the project looks to redefine ‘smart’ in the context of a living, working city, creating new business opportunities and public sector improvements, and ultimately, generating a blueprint for smart cities worldwide.”
Integration is crucial
She adds that cities also need to consider the needs of citizens before implementing different technologies. And when governments and councils choose the type of technology they’re going to use, it’s crucial that they integrate it using a smart digital platform. This tech could easily become fragmented.
“A smart city should have the needs of the citizens it will serve at the very core of its design. This ‘bottom-up’ approach will ensure developments are relevant to their needs and allows technology to really empower citizens to benefit from better healthcare, safer streets, a more effective transport system or improved education, which are key to revolutionise city liveability and citizen well-being,” she says.
“Integration across a smart digital platform is essential for a smart city to function properly. City leaders need to be able to take action using up-to-date data in real-time and that means all barriers, whether tech integration or between department siloes, need to be removed to allow for the secure, responsible data sharing that is the lifeblood of a truly smart city.”