Just prior to Christmas, I had the privilege to explore what makes a city smart with Léan Doody, the smart cities lead at the professional services group, Arup, Julian David, CEO of TechUK, and Jeremy Green, Principal Analyst at Machina Research, author of our recent Smart Cities report, and the moderator of our online panel discussion. Over the course of almost an hour, we covered a lot of ground, including privacy and security, automation, and driverless cars – some of the principle issues affecting urban environments as they grow ever smarter. Here’s a summary of what we discussed:
Privacy and security - data is the currency of the ‘smart’ age. We need trust, security and transparency to drive the adoption of smart technology. Privacy and security will be key for ensuring public safety and consumer trust, so embedding the right level of data and privacy protection in connected devices is essential for encouraging adoption. In addition, regulation is needed to improve and increase the transparency of how data is used by different organisations. Finding the right balance between ensuring a good user experience and protecting data is crucial for building trust in smart city networks. The technology required to ensure security is already available, but the challenge is to find effective ways of achieving scalability across billions of connected devices.
Automation - to be able to realise the benefits of smart technology, a smart city must make important decisions about how they will make use of automation. Léan pointed out that this is a strategic choice, requiring cities to decide which smart technologies they want to adopt and invest in, based on their urban planning priorities. For instance, London has already adopted contactless payments to make travel more ‘frictionless’ and easier for its citizens.
Julian added that automation can play a key role in optimizing living space and resources to help resolve the housing crisis in cities like London. He emphasized that addressing this challenge requires flexible urban planning with a clear vision about how cities can accommodate a growing number of new residents without putting too much strain on public services.
Driverless cars - another area where automation and governance come together: the mass adoption of driverless cars and the need to build smarter transportation networks and infrastructure. This is a topic close to my heart: the adoption of autonomous cars could be driven by technology disruptors like Uber and become commonplace over the next five years. Although there are plenty of ethical, technological and governance challenges which need to be overcome, there is strong intent from governments and public transport authorities to make autonomous driving possible in the foreseeable future.
I truly enjoyed our discussion and hearing what the smart city experts had to say about the future of cities. You can watch the full debate here:
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