Privacy and Politics: London Wants To Get Business Model Right For Smart Cities

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London has a European smart city demonstrator but authorities say understanding the value of data and getting finance right is essential 

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peopleBut he also sees smart cities and analytics as a way of understanding people who live in a city better and more effectively. 

“One of the things that wasn’t quite there with previous administration [led by Boris Johnson] was integration and inclusion to use sensors and data to understand communities,” he explained, noting Brexit as an example.  

“The mayor needs to have information when he goes into negotiations with government about the economy and how citizens are responding.” 

The London data store opened in 2010 with 600 data sets and now has 70,000 users per month. It’s where the TfL APIs are stored and Collinge’s strategy is to develop the London data market, make it smarter with the IoT and ensure the value of the data is recognised. 

He suggests that people should place a value on this commodity and so should government, perhaps depending on the size of the organisation in question and the potential benefit to the city. 

Economy of data 

big-data“Communicating IoT and smart to politicians is increasingly important,” he said. “In a city like London, I have an absolute abundance of data but don’t always know how to link it to political priorities.” 

“For me there’s a question about charging for data. Would I charge the same amount to an SMB than I would an industrial giant like Siemens? There’s maybe a sliding scale model that we need to think about.” 

Despite Brexit on the horizon, Greenwich’s smart city demonstrator will continue to run alongside other pilots elsewhere in the EU, including in Madrid and Lisbon, and Collinge will work with the European Investment Bank (EIB) to get the business models and finance structure right so projects are attractive to investment partners. 

“Because of the financial competence of London, we’re going to build a pan-European smart cities fund,” he elaborated. “We’re going to make sure that’s spent on making smart cities and IoT a reality. The EC is obsessed with this and wants to see what works in London can work in other places too.” 

Better together 

TeamworkAir quality, energy use, social care, smart parking, rouge landlords – these are but a few examples Collinge provided to demonstrate the potential benefits to citizens if London can enhance its data set. Commercial data could also be added to the platform to augment public sources.  

London wants to take leadership, get closer to the market and articulate what smart city technology can do but it also needs to get the London boroughs onside and share information and resources. Economies of scale will be essential to adoption, after all. 

“[There can be]things you can build once and share 33 times over,” he said. “Why should local authorities procure 33 times when they can get it once and have the power together? 

“I’m entirely realistic. I won’t be able to bring all 33 boroughs at the first time of asking or even the 10th time. But we need coalitions of the willing.” 

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