People may think that smart cities are merely a futuristic concept that will eventually be developed further in years to come. However, they have already become a reality. In case proof is needed, all one needs to do is look at the United Kingdom. When it comes to the development of smart cities on the global scale, the country is center stage. There were 240 smart cities in Europe in 2014, 38 of which are in the United Kingdom alone. What defines a smart city, according to University of Vienna professor Rudolf Giffinger, is its administration, economy, mobility, environment, population and lifestyle. In order to offer a high quality of life, cities aiming at becoming “smart” rely on information and communication technologies, such as connected objects and wireless networks, as well as various types of sensors.
One may wonder how these tools are used and how the industry will develop in the UK. In May 2016, a study was published by Navigant Research – a consulting firm specializing in technologies that is especially interested in this area. Their research centers around the 10 most efficient smart cities in the country.
According to this study, London and Bristol are the leading British smart cities, followed by Birmingham, Glasgow and Manchester. The main reason why London holds the first place is the measures it has taken to monitor traffic, while an ambitious project aimed at putting innovations at the service of the city allows Bristol to stand out. Several major players in the city are involved in this project, including the town hall, manufacturers and companies, as well as the university.
The initiatives already exist in all of the smart cities presented in the study, such as the London Datastore, a wonderful database focusing on topics as varied as air pollution and childhood obesity that can be accessed freely by everyone. Some of these initiatives are also being developed or they are only projects as of now.
All over the United Kingdom, these innovations aiming at creating a higher quality of life in the cities have several common elements. Indeed, they carry a certain political vision, they emphasize actions benefiting the community and by the community, as they rely on its strengths and major players, and they enjoy the added value offered by the use of data and technology. The results are such that Navigant Research even encourages individuals and local governments involved in urban community management on an international scale to use UK smart cities as examples.
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