Mapping out the route to the ‘smart city’ vision
February 27, 2019
Today, our cities are at a crossroads. Sweeping shifts in working patterns and changing social attitudes are impacting citizens’ expectations for how they get around and interact with key services. Advances in technology and a move to more service-based offerings have whetted the appetite. But unless these convert into more convenient, personalised, always-on digital services for citizens, they will likely vote with their feet and move elsewhere.
It’s against this background that our cities, regions and local communities must work out how to harness the power of technology for the good of all. We are seeing elements of the ‘smart city’ emerge in places across the nation. But to date, progress has been frustratingly piecemeal, inconsistent and gradual.
How to up the pace? To accelerate the journey to the smart vision, we first need to decide what the vision looks like and make sure it is something all those involved are fully bought into. Only then should attentions turn to how it can be delivered. In collaboration with a number of other forward-thinking organisations, we set out recently to explore how we can get to the smart future more quickly. The results have been very interesting.
So: what will a successful smart city or region look like? It’ll be about much more than implementing new technologies. It’ll help to address societal issues in areas like health and education. It’ll promote inclusion for people currently lacking access to services, support and connectivity. It’ll embrace digital innovation. And – crucially – it will prioritise access to enhanced transport services as a vital underpinner of all the other benefits.
All of this adds up to a vision for the smart future that’s focused on people, enabled by transport, powered by data, and delivered through new technologies. But defining this vision is just the start. As ever, delivery is the hard part.
We believe there are three main challenges at present: too much choice, too many cooks and the fact that when it comes to a smart future, one size definitely does not fit all.
Keen to tackle these points head on, unpick the issues involved and work out actionable solution to address them, we have teamed up with the London Transport Museum (LTM), Thales and Gowling WLG to host a series of roundtable events. We are currently creating a report where we look at the barriers to creating a Smart City and how to overcome them. I’m looking forward to sharing these with you all soon.
What’s already clear from our discussions is that although there are hurdles and risks along the way to the smart future – but the scale of the benefits to all stakeholders more than justifies the effort of tackling them.