Planning for SMART Cities in the UK

SMART City - Vision, Intelligence and Engagement

16/08/2013 Written by: Robert Moyser

I recently gave a presentation at a SMART city workshop organised by Boima Rogers of MEMO and supported and sponsored by Oxford Business First. Fellow presenters included Dr Rick Robinson of IBM, Charlie Leaper of SMART Parking and Nick King of Oxford County Council alongside local leaders and stakeholders in the audience. The workshop focused on the opportunities that a SMART city can offer and what it could mean for Oxford and Oxfordshire. It was a really interesting morning with some fascinating presentations, and some really interesting and challenging comments from the delegates.

My presentation covered the following areas and is summarised below.

A SMART city should be a living city, one that aims to combine sustainable urban development with urban intelligence

There are currently no truly SMART cities in the world; most cities that are branded smart actually only have a sector based approach to technology and there is limited integration of data across city departments and between stakeholders.

Cities that aspire to be smart therefore need strong leadership from within the local authority, which must have a remit to facilitate data exchange and support urban intelligence across city departments, and communicate and engage with citizens. Local authority leadership has to connect with its citizens and the private sector as it’s here that entrepreneurship will happen and innovation has to be encouraged and fostered.

Cities should be thinking now about their long term plans, and investigate collaborative engagements with the private sector as well as an integrated approach to general service procurement and funding. A base position to demonstrate the commercial viability of a SMART city is for a city to aim to achieve a minimum position of cost neutrality compared to business as usual. For example the capital expenditure and operational expenditure associated with smart systems should be no greater than the cost savings associated with the operations of a more efficient set of infrastructure within the city. A co-ordinated business and economic plan is therefore vital.

A city’s goal should be to reduce broadband poverty for its citizens and encourage commercial growth and competitiveness.

Within an existing context, ICT planning coordinated with sustainable infrastructure planning is obviously key in terms of ownership, design, operation and maintenance and construction.  New technology introduction has to be planned, integrated and co-ordinated with the wider city vision and objectives, and must include the needs of the citizens and its stakeholders so that benefits both to the city and its citizens are realised.

Data security and data privacy have to be on the planning agenda. Security strategies should cover the physical infrastructure, as well as software and wireless and cellular technologies. Citizens should have the right to request transparency, trust and openness both in terms of data held, and how and where that data is collected.

Although all of the elements of a SMART city that I have raised above are of key importance, without citizens and other stakeholders using, trusting and engaging with smart technology, the potential benefits will never be realised. Cities should have the aspiration to make their citizens smarter via technology. Essentially we all have the potential to be human sensors, problem solvers and to be socially innovate when armed with a smartphone, and an integrated information and communication platform. Engagement with citizens and stakeholders during SMART City planning is fundamental.

To summarise I outlined BuroHappold’s concept of vision, intelligence and engagement. Ultimately in our experience, cities should be creating an integrated roadmap and future strategy that covers all the areas I’ve outlined above. This can only be achieved with a co-ordinated and strategic SMART City plan to ensure a successful digital future for all.

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