London’s strong intracity collaboration and interoperability are qualities that are receiving international attention
Earlier last year Singapore, London and Barcelona took pride of place as the top three most smart cities, according to Philips Lighting.
What made these cities smarter? Even Philips admits the ‘smart city’ moniker can be interpreted in various ways. London was commended for being community focused in its approach, Singapore for its forward-thinking use of buildings and transportation, and Barcelona for involving the top level of government. Digging into the report it seems like the methodology was more an attempt to demystify smart cities than arrive at any objective ranking.
Ahead of Smart IoT London, taking place at the ExCeL next week in London, we wanted to know if it’s actually possible to arrive at a universal concept of a smart city, and if so, to use it to measure the performance of London.
A smart city definition oft-recited is the following:
“A city can be defined as ‘smart’ when investments in human and social capital and traditional (transport) and modern (ICT) communication infrastructure fuel sustainable economic development and a high quality of life, with wise management of natural resources, through participatory action and engagement.”
The “modern ICT infrastructure” is now well defined, consisting of smart IoT sensed devices that collect data that is then analysed and used to manage assets and resources efficiently, and also refers to autonomous transport systems powered by machine learning and 5G.
But parsing out the technology from the effects, smart cities mean different things to different people. Does this mean arriving at a shared definition is a fool’s errand? For Ben Hawes, Government policy lead on Smart Cities, the term is not inaccurate just “broad”.
“I think it does describe a genuine area and shared aspiration, particularly in public policy terms. But to have a definite conversation about a particular issue or solution, you generally have to drill down to a more specific term,” he says.
There are two interlinked aspirations driving smart city developments. The first is a financial incentive emanating from the public sector. Governments want to cut costs, and given the purported savings, that incentive is red hot. Financial value derived from smart cities will be delivered directly to the council: improving the quality and efficiency of services: transportation, energy, planning and utilities to reduce wastage and costs. 5G connectivity, for instance, will underpin a more efficient London transportation network by helping to reduce congestion.
The second value derived is experiential: improving the day-to-day city experience for citizens. 5G connectivity will allow TfL to more accurately inform commuters of (via data received through connected lampposts and bus stops) the least congested routes on any given day.