Connected Cities: London as a smart laboratory

This year the Government said it wants the UK to become 'the technology centre for Europe'. To do this, the Government needs to look at every part of the economy. One area that's currently under the spotlight is our cities. "Connected cities" could be one of the keys to driving growth. Highly connected, driven by super-fast connectivity, these cities will help propel British innovation over the next decade.

But to get to that point, the planning has to be done now. One example of this already starting to take shape is the Intel Collaborative Research Institute (ICRI) for Sustainable Connected Cities. It's a joint effort between two of London's top universities; University College and Imperial College.

The new Institute will investigate how technology can be put to good use, helping to tackle social, economic and environmental challenges. The hope is that it'll help create a blueprint for 'connected cities', beginning with London as a "smart city lab".

The research is looking at new intelligent systems such as networks of sensors which can provide quick access to data on trends for traffic, pollution and water supply. They're set up to take the pulse of a city and provide a snapshot of how well it's operating. In Norway, this data is centralised on a platform known as 'CityData'.

Current traffic congestion can be monitored, shared, and used to develop smarter transport timetables and alerts. By making the most of this data in London, councils could start to target areas to send out more wardens, re-route traffic or provide warnings on mobile apps. But for all of this to work, it relies on "Big Data".

The right tools and bandwidth need to be in place to capture and carry these high volumes of information, and to ensure that connectivity isn't restricted to just big business but is at the fingertips of all. This way, innovation can flourish and growth can be stimulated.

London is already embracing this innovative approach to using data more wisely. For example, the London Grid for Learning (LGFL), which involves all 33 London Local Authorities, is making use of a dedicated Public Services Network.

The network is providing schools with e-learning tools such as video conferencing, virtual learning platforms and podcasts. As technology finds its way both into the classroom and increasingly into the curriculum, we're nurturing the generation of people who will live in these connected cities.

By 2050, most of the nine billion people in the world will live in urban spaces. This density of people will be a challenge unless systems are in place to manage every aspect of the way a city operates. Investing today in forward-thinking research and super-fast connectivity will make these "connected cities" a reality.