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?
Smart cities are beginning to garner plenty of interest due to the fact that connected technology is becoming more advanced and accessible while the challenges are increasing. Matthew Evans, who leads IoT and smart city initiatives at trade organisation TechUK, believes that tech computing, mobile and AI tech has the ability to bring good to British cities.
“Our cities and communities face a huge challenge; how to provide services to a growing but ageing population in a time of resource scarcity in both funding and carbon terms. They are trying to grapple with this challenge while anticipating large changes in the economy as a result of technology disruption,” he says.
“But it is in the incredible advances in artificial intelligence, miniaturisation, computing power and storage that the answer to this challenge can be found. Smart city solutions allow us to reimagine and redesign how we deliver services giving us the ability to intervene far earlier – and therefore at far lower cost – in problems ranging from troubled families to air pollution. And it is also a global export market of many billions.”
There’s one major problem, though, and that’s money. For smart cities to be successful and enter the mainstream, more support and funding needs to be provided. Evans says this is where the government should should enter the picture.
“So if smart cities are so good, why don’t we see them? Well, we shouldn’t shy away from saying that parts of UK cities are very smart – and rank well when compared globally,” he explains.
“We need to recognise though that in order to push on we need to grapple with the thorny issues of funding and digital leadership, which most successful exemplars have. We are working with industry to do so but would like government to reaffirm its commitment to smart cities and make more assistance available to local authorities.”
Developing the tech
Government support may be important, but it’s also crucial that the right tech is available and utilised by councils. Tech giant Panasonic has invested a significant amount of time and money in smart cities. It has projects ongoing in Europe, Asia and the US.
Laurent Abadie, CEO and Chairman of Panasonic Europe, says companies have a responsibility to help tackle challenges in the world. “Our society is facing unprecedented challenges: overpopulation, urbanisation, pollution, scarcity of resources. At Panasonic, we believe that we have a responsibility to tackle these challenges and change the way we live for the better. And we do this by creating smart cities around the globe,” he says.
“Our wide solutions portfolio in mobility, energy and the security sector, combined with our consumer know-how, has equipped us as leaders in smart city development. We are involved in smart city projects in Japan, France, the US and Germany, supporting city councils as well as private industry initiatives to make our cities smarter and improve people’s lives.
If smart cities are to succeed into the future, the technology needs to be focused on improving the lives of humans and introducing sustainability. Abadie explains: “A successful smart city is built on a people-first approach by using technology to empower its residents, businesses and governments to build a sustainable future. As a result, smart cities produce fewer CO2 emissions, need less water and energy, but provide residents with more efficient safety and transport solutions.”