Tag Archives: economic

Connected cities are needed to survive the urban growth

The UK government wants the UK to be the technology centre for Europe this year. But to achieve this, they will have to look at every part of their economy. One area that is being closely looked at lately is our cities. To drive growth, cities need to be more connected. These highly connected cities need to be driven by super-fast connectivity and they can help drive the British innovation over the next few years.

But if the UK wants highly connected cities in the future, they need to start planning things now. And they already have been thinking about this. An example is the Intel Collaborative Research Institute (ICRI) for Sustainable Connected Cities. ICRI is a joint effort between two of London’s top universities: University College and Imperial College London.

Social, economic and environmental challenges need to be tackled and it’s up to this new institute to investigate how technologies can help tackle these issues. They want London to become a ‘smart city lab’ and they want to create a blueprint for ‘connected cities’ in the UK.

So the researchers of this new institute will investigate some of the new intelligent technologies to use on our cities. An example is the network of sensors that can be used to quickly access data on trends for traffic, pollution and water supply. If they have all this data, they can analyze it to see how well the city is operating. Norway already has a centralized data platform like this called ‘CityData’.

A real-life application of this can be the traffic monitoring. Traffic congestions can be monitored and analyzed to develop smart transport timetabled and alerts. Councils could start to target areas to send more wardens, re-route traffic or provide warnings on mobile apps.

But this can only work when you have a huge amount of data at hand. So the right tools and bandwidth need to be in place first before you can start capturing and carrying these high volumes of information. When the connectivity isn’t restricted to just big businesses but to all of the city, innovation and growth can be stimulated and can flourish.

So using data more wisely is a very good new innovative approach to cities. London is already embracing this with as an example the London Gird for Learning (LGFL). All 33 London local authorities are involved in LGFL, and it’s making the most out of a dedicated public services network. It’s already providing schools with new technologies like e-learning tools such as video conferencing, virtual learning platforms and podcasts.

By 2050, there will be about nine billion people on this world, and most of them will be living in urban spaces. If cities don’t prepare systems to manage every aspect of the way a city operates, they will be challenged in all sorts of ways.  So cities need to start investing today in forward-thinking research and super-fast connectivity that will make the ‘connected cities’ reality.

Future Cities Demonstrator competition

Local authorities of urban areas with a population of at least 125,000 in the UK can enter the Future Cities Demonstrator competition. This is a design competition to hunt for ideas for “future cities”. The UK government launched this competition worth £24 million and it’s funded by the Technology Strategy Board (TSB). The aim is to improve the overall quality of life for people living in the city. And they want to do this with unique and functional methods of integrating city systems in an environmentally-sound and economical way. So, this calls for large-scale designs.

There are lots of things that local authorities should consider when they think about these future cities. Transport, communication and waste management are just a handful of the systems that have to be put in a proposal for the future city.

Iain Gray, Chief Executive at TSB, said that in the future, efficient, attractive and resilient cities need to be delivered. So there will be a large market for innovative approaches. TSB is well positioned to exploit the growing market since they have world-leading companies in areas such as project management, engineering, architecture, energy and transport systems, communications and the digital economy.

When local authorities enter the competition, they can win one of the 20 grants of £50,000. These grants can be used to further demonstrate and develop the ideas they entered. And one of these twenty grants is a £24 million award for the final proposal.

The government hopes that the programme will give multinationals and homegrown SME’s an incentive to work together with cities and to start debates to create more efficient and integrated systems and products. The debate is already going on, with University College London, Imperial College and Cisco announcing in 2011 that they would open a Future Cities Centre in east London’s Tech City. And TSB  also announced earlier this year that they will launch the Future Cities Catapult, a technology research centre focusing on innovative city planning and supporting businesses in the field.

So the competition gives cities and businesses the change to test innovative ideas and see the results of their ideas sooner than they might have thought.