Smart Cities: Innovation through Collaboration

Page 11



Peter Madden OBE

Chief executive, Future Cities Catapult

Better connected


ur cities need to be better connected to meet the demands of the future. As the world rapidly urbanises, city infrastructure has to work harder to satisfy the needs of the population. But full-scale overhaul of hard infrastructure — from power networks to transport systems — is slow and expensive. There is another way to meet increasing demand. By digitally connecting urban infrastructure, it is possible to gain a better understanding of usage, predict how resources must be allocated in the future, share the load between different systems and even encourage people to shift their habits to decrease demand. This idea lies squarely within the vision of the smart city: a more intelligent, connected space, where digital systems create an urban realm that understands its surroundings and uses resources more effectively. There was, of course, a surge of enthusiasm for smart cities and integrated urban solutions around 20 years ago, which led to many disappointing projects. Then, technology was seen as a panacea, but cities and providers have both since learned that’s not the case. Now, with advancing technological capabilities, increased understanding about what innovation can achieve and a growing respect for collaboration, we are seeing a new vision of the smart city, where appropriate technology is used to solve specific city problems. At Future Cities Catapult, we help UK companies to make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable places through intelligent use of new technologies and processes. Over the past year, we have been proud to work with Hypercat to do just that, as it has developed new standards for the Internet of Things (IoT). These will make it easier for devices to connect and communicate with each other, so that they can be used to help make cities more efficient. Hypercat takes a very similar approach to Future Cities Catapult. First, it is working with a diverse range of organisations in building solutions that span sectors, to improve city services by understanding how they work together. Second, it is developing standards of best practice that will help guide cities around the world in sharing and adopting new ways of using IoT technology to improve the urban realm. Finally, it is already putting its work to exciting practical use in applications such as smart highways and intelligent car parking. It is an approach echoed in many of our own projects. Our Smart Campus project with the University of Glasgow, for instance, can help a large educational establishment run more efficiently by modifying its infrastructure to work together — so waste systems feed on to renewable energy production and city-wide sensing provides vital information to tailor transport and teaching. Meanwhile, our Cities Standards Institute is laying the foundations for a robust set of coherent standards for urban innovation, which will create the right conditions for the future cities market to flourish in the UK and beyond. Also, our Sensing Cities project is providing realworld test beds around London for new services focused on air quality and pedestrian activity. At the heart of all these projects, of course, lies the unifying theme of collaboration. These problems are too big and complex for a single organisation to solve. The only way we will build a truly smart city is by working together — as Hypercat and Future Cities Catapult well know.


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