Can The UK Capitalise On The Potential Of Smart Cities?

City of London (c) QQ7, Shutterstock 2013

Smart cities can the way we live and encourage better, more effective public services. But are we doing enough in the UK to make it a reality?

Connected technologies are taking over the world. In almost every context, we’re using internet-enabled devices and sensors to make our lives easier. It’s for this reason that the market for the Internet of Things (IoT) is expected to be worth trillions over the next few years.

But if there’s one area of the Internet of Things that’s captivating the minds, it’s the smart city. The concept is a simple one. Our cities, however big they are, face a ton of challenges – whether it be growing populations or government funding cuts.

However, technology – particularly smart sensors – can help make them more sustainable and effective. Because of this, technologists, organisations and governments right around the world are working on smart city projects. There are some great things happening in the world, but can the UK replicate this success?

Testing the tech

smart cityWhile the idea of smart cities sounds great, they’re still a relatively new area. Tech doesn’t always come cheap, and there are plenty of people to be convinced on the benefits here. However, there are a handful of projects popping up around the UK that are putting the concept to the test.

Bristol is Open is one of these early-stage projects. Funded by the UK government and European Union, BIO is a joint venture between the University of Bristol and Bristol City Council to explore how integrated technology can benefit the lives of citizens and solve a plethora of problems. These include traffic congestion, air pollution and assisted driving.

Effectively, the project wants to turn the entire city of Bristol into a dynamic testbed for the latest connected technologies. A number of sensors and GPS devices will be used to create three fast networks for the city, utilising the potential of machine-to-machine communication. Teams will then develop a range of applications and link them to sensors located throughout the city.

Nokia, having shifted away from making mobile phones, will be supporting the initiative by contributing its network and IoT expertise. Cormac Whelan, CEO of Nokia UK and Ireland, tells TechWeekEurope: “Over the coming decades, the scale of growth and urbanisation facing large cities will become a challenge for most communities to address.

“Smart cities are a great solution to this problem. However, it is quite easy to talk about smart cities, but in reality they are a difficult thing to implement. This is because cities are, by nature, constantly changing and evolving entities, and the risk of causing chaos by rushing in and implementing technology without proper testing is a serious one.

“What BiO has very cleverly done is create a live, programmable city, which will provide a test-bed for Nokia to research and develop smart city applications. This gives us a fantastic opportunity to implement and test our multiple technologies such as hardware and software, analytics, video, and 5G in a real life environment.”

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