The smart cities industry will be worth an estimated $400 billion globally by 2020. With the UK targeting a 10% share of this overall total, the urban technology revolution could provide a massive boost to the national economy. These innovations could also vastly improve the lives of the millions of British people living in urban areas. Experts predict that the smart cities of the future will monitor air quality to reduce pollution, use real time traffic data to ease congestion and tackle crime using analytic software.
While much more needs to be done to improve interconnectivity and data infrastructure before this vision can become a reality, several UK cities are already leading the way by exploiting the latest smart tech. London has been an early adopter of smart city innovation, most notably by using new technology to improve the service provided by public transport.
Meanwhile, the Bristol Smart Energy City Collaboration will see a single, city-owned, energy company take responsibility for smarter use, distribution and supply of energy across Bristol by using big data to balance supply and demand.
In the North West, Manchester has established a “smart quarter” where established firms can link up with tech start-ups to collaborate and innovate new solutions to the challenges facing the city.
Experts have suggested that directly elected mayors with autonomous decision making powers are the main driving force behind London and Bristol being the UK leaders in smart cities. Projects such as those in Manchester, alongside the devolution deals for city regions, are key to the Northern Powerhouse agenda. Local government has a key role to play not only in facilitating the introduction of smart technology but also using the data it provides to deliver more efficient services
The Digital Economy Bill is just one Government initiative which is paving the way for smarter cities. The Modern Transport Bill, proposed in the 2016 Queen’s Speech, looks set to lay the legislative framework for a revolution in transport technology. The bill includes plans to invest in driverless vehicles and create more efficient roads. Exploiting new technologies could transform not only the daily commute but also delivery logistics and emergency service response times. Existing devises have shown the potential for analytic software to improve public transport by altering services to meet varying demand.