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New initiative to support $40 billion smart cities in the UK

By Peter Fitzgibbon - 11th October 2013 - 13:16

The UK’s cities will be helped to get smart, thanks to the launch of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills’s new Smart Cities initiative

It comes as a new report published this week values the smart cities industry at more than $400 billion globally by 2020, with the UK expected to gain a 10% share ($40 billion).

A smart city uses intelligent technology to enhance our quality of life in urban environments. Cities can use the data in a variety of ways; to save money, minimise waste, measure domestic water usage and manage transport routes.

Allowing the public access to real time information enables people to make more informed choices, such as planning a journey by checking for available room on trains and buses or even identifying car parking spaces before leaving the house.

Published this week, the ‘Global Market Opportunities and UK Capabilities for future smart cities’ report highlights how this technology could transform lives and provide a huge economic boost.

To ensure that the UK does not miss out on the opportunities offered by smart cities, a new Smart Cities Forum has been established, chaired by Universities and Science Minister David Willetts and Cities Minister Greg Clark, and with representatives from cities, business, and scientists.

Mr Willetts said:

“The opportunity to develop new technologies for smart cities in the UK is massive. We want to make sure that we are at the forefront of this digital revolution so we can stay ahead in the global race designing new innovations in the UK and exporting them across the world.

“With around 80% of the UK’s population living in cities, we need to ensure that they are fit for purpose in the digital age. Through our information economy strategy we will support cities to improve energy efficiency, reduce carbon emissions and save money.”

Volker Buscher, Arup Director and Smart Cities Forum member, who wrote the report, said:

“By 2050, the human population will have reached 9 billion people with 75% of the world’s inhabitants living in cities. Smart technologies can help address some of the challenges of rapid urbanisation by improving services and managing their efficiency.”

“We already have incredible academics and professionals in the UK so we are well equipped to capitalise on this growing market and help create a better environment for us all.”

The government is already supporting investment in this sector, as highlighted in this week's background paper published by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. This investment includes around £95 million of research into smart cities funded by Research Councils UK, £50 million over 5 years earmarked for the new Future Cities Catapult centre being established by the Technology Strategy Board in London, and £33 million invested in future city demonstrators earlier this year.

Other government-funded activities include transport projects to promote intelligent transport systems and smart ticketing, the roll out of telecare and telehealth in the NHS, and the introduction of smart meters by 2020.

About Smart Cities in Bristol

Smart technologies can help deliver a cleaner environment, a higher quality of life and a vibrant economy. Bristol aims to be in the top 20 European cities by 2020 and has made a commitment to create a world-class and inclusive green-digital economy.

Connecting Bristol - the city’s digital partnership - was established in 2006 and leads the city’s work on next generation broadband infrastructure, smart city, open data, green ICT, and digital inclusion. Bristol City Council owns and manages a £9 million city fibre network. Through ‘Gigabit Bristol’, which received £11 million UK Super Connected Cities funding, they are deploying a high-speed broadband test-bed, citywide Wi-Fi network and experimental radio frequency network.

Smart City Bristol is a collaborative programme between the public sector, business and community which builds upon the city’s digital infrastructure. The aim is to use smart technologies to meet a target to reduce CO2 emissions by 40% by 2020. It was launched in 2011 and builds upon the Smart City Bristol Report commissioned by Bristol City Council and funded by the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change.

Mayor of Bristol George Ferguson said: “ Bristol is fast becoming the UK’s most creative, smart, green and connected city. Being the only city in the UK to win funding from government to be both a Super Connected City and a Future City Demonstrator is testament to this. Furthermore in 2015 Bristol will be European Green Capital, staging an inspiring programme of events centred around the idea of Bristol as a ‘Laboratory for Change’.”

“I am offering Bristol as a test-bed for innovative environmental ideas, where we will develop pioneering practices which will not only benefit Bristol, but will hopefully become a model for cities in the UK and around the world.”

About Smart Cities in Manchester

Greater Manchester is working to take advantage in development on the use of data, such as mobile phone data, vehicle systems, satellite data and camera data. They are developing an approach to bring all of this data together to create an oversight of the city. This would then be able to be used for things such as seeing where people flows might have an impact on the transport system. This would result in creating more efficient and reliable routes and giving selective priority to buses on certain routes.

About Smart Cities in Birmingham

Birmingham has an aspiration of becoming a smart, connected city and has ambitions to deliver a 60% reduction in carbon emission by 2026. Digital Birmingham, the City’s strategic digital lead is developing a roadmap and action a plan, working in partnership and collaboration with leading community experts, universities, SMES, and several major businesses including, CISCO, ATOS, Carillion, TATA, AMEY and IBM, developing the key strands of a smart city .

Birmingham is already a significantly connected city, and the additional funds of £8 million secured by Digital Birmingham for superfast and ultrafast broadband will ensure that Birmingham will be a 100% digitally connected city.

Among the things taking place in Birmingham include a city-wide wi-fi network allowing town planners to manage traffic. Over 500 traffic related sensors cover signal junctions, traffic signs, car parks and CCTV all linked to a single control room. Parking sensors are also being used in a trial across the city giving motorists real time data on where on-street parking is available.

About Smart Cities in Glasgow

Glasgow beat competition from 30 cities across the UK to win £24 million funding through the Technology Strategy Board to develop a future cities demonstrator. The city will demonstrate how providing new integrated services across health, transport, energy and public safety can improve the local economy and increase the quality of life of Glasgow’s citizens.

The Glasgow Future Cities Demonstrator aims to address some of the city’s most pressing energy and health needs. For example, developing systems to help tackle fuel poverty and to look at long-standing health issues such as low life expectancy.

The demonstrator will also show how innovative use of technology can improve the Council’s service provision, while additional potential benefits include improved crime prevention, a reduction in anti-social behaviour and improvements in travel infrastructure.

The large-scale demonstrator will be made up of a series of projects that will improve transport and mobility across the city. It will develop programmes to promote healthy living, deliver advanced street lighting to address community safety and perception of crime, and enhance building energy efficiency to provide affordable warmth. Value will be created by capturing and opening up data, improving the city’s real-time operations with a city dashboard and a management system that views the city as an integrated whole, and a ‘MyGlasgow’ public window on the city to deliver multiple benefits for the people of Glasgow.

[Supplementary Note: Iain Langlands and Paul George from Glasgow Council won the Best Paper Award at this year's AGI GEOCommunity '13 Conference for their presentation 'Glasgow's Future Cities Demonstrator: The possibilities are endless!']

The government’s economic policy objective is to achieve ‘strong, sustainable and balanced growth that is more evenly shared across the country and between industries’. It set four ambitions in the ‘Plan for Growth’, published at Budget 2011:

• to create the most competitive tax system in the G20

• to make the UK the best place in Europe to start, finance and grow a business

• to encourage investment and exports as a route to a more balanced economy

• to create a more educated workforce that is the most flexible in Europe

Work is underway across government to achieve these ambitions, including progress on more than 250 measures as part of the Growth Review. Developing an Industrial Strategy gives new impetus to this work by providing businesses, investors and the public with more clarity about the long-term direction in which the government wants the economy to travel.

[Supplementary Note: In a follow-up to the Government announcement, market analysts Ovum welcomed the UK smart city industry strategy but stressed that development of the market needs long-term investment and planning and therefore continuity and stability in government policy.

Joe Dignan, chief public sector analyst at Ovum said, “The smart city industry strategy is a useful start to a national strategy for future cities, but to succeed there is a need for policy stability, and with UK elections only two years away it would be useful for other relevant parties to state their thinking on future cities to ensure continuity and allow for long-term investment and planning.

“If the UK wants to be seen as a global leader in the “smart city” space, it needs to develop a common view of the market. Smart” is an obtuse tag, and there are myriad other tags in use such as “digital,” “connected,” and “intelligent”, which dilutes the brand. Having opted for “future cities” in the Future Cities Catapult center it should stick with this term. Second, there should be agreement on what is within the scope of the market and what is not. In addition to the key verticals of transport, energy management, water, waste, and assisted living that Willetts identified as providing significant opportunities to capitalize on this growing market, Ovum views public safety and security as a critical component of the mix.

“We’ve written a number of reports suggesting that the market has passed the inflection point between vision and implementation, but the speed of adoption needs to speed up dramatically if the current level of investment from the supplier community is to be maintained. Suppliers, and those in the IT industry in particular, have invested heavily in R&D to address the challenges of the future city market, with little return to date. The major barrier has been the absence of a customer that has the authority, responsibility, and access to finance to address the horizontal nature of future city challenges.”

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