The term Smart City has been in operation for some time. It’s often seen as a bit of a dream, something that will happen in the future and mean everything in our homes and on our streets will interact, making our lives, public services and cities seamlessly intertwined.
However, this future has been a reality for some time. A need for the public sector to become more efficient, as well as the rise of IoT, has resulted in city halls embracing the notion of Smart Cities. In fact Gartner is predicting that in 2016, Smart Cities will use 1.6 million connected devices, a 39 per cent increase over 2015.
The time is now
The Local Government Association predicts the amount of money available to deliver the most popular local services will shrink by 66 per cent by the end of the decade. These cuts highlight the need for local authorities to find efficiencies in all their services.
One option for local authorities to find such efficiencies is to become smarter and invest in new technology to deliver greater value to citizens; a view shared by digital economy minster Ed Vaizey MP.
The MP recently stated that IoT is fast becoming an integral part of the fabric of how we live our lives and how government delivers services for its citizens. He believes the UK has the opportunity to become a world leader in this emerging technology and made £10 million, of the £40 million government planned investment in IoT, available to local authorities and enterprise partnerships.
The fund, which was run as a competition by central government, was won by Manchester and will now become the UK’s IoT City Demonstrator. This will see the creation of an IoT Centre of Excellence in Manchester to provider start-ups and SMEs with access to an open innovation programme. A very positive step forward for the UK.
Investment is there
Investopedia states IoT is a huge untapped market for investors, with the $2 trillion India Smart Cities Project being listed as the biggest investment to date, so it’s clear the appetite is there.
If this interest and level of investment in IoT continues, with support from local councils and central government, we’re likely to see IoT build on what has been achieved and become mainstream; resulting in more affordable, achievable and useable IoT for all involved.
The user is key
With any emerging technology investment is wasted without user buy in. Lacking this even the best products could become the next Betamax player or Sinclair C5.
Klaus Moessner, Professor in Cognitive Networks at Surrey University, supports this point. He says, “Investment is one part of the issue, but another is that Smart Cities need buy in from the users/citizens. They will only participate and contribute if they see an incentive that appeals to them.”
Therefore to ensure user buy in, the public sector needs to consider what the citizens require. Once the needs are accounted for, it provides a solid foundation to build from and demonstrates the incentive behind the project.
All coming together
Budget cuts are forcing the hand of local authorities and central government to find efficiency through investment in IoT.
This increased investment will make IoT more affordable and give the UK’s towns and cities a base to build the Smart Cities of the future. With Manchester, Bristol and others leading the way, the platform is forming for IoT to become a mainstay in British cities.
If this is well thought-out, with seamless integration for citizens, we will see the final piece of the puzzle put in place; user buy-in across society.
It is an exciting time for IoT and the UK. We can lead the way in this emerging technology and deliver results, not only for budgets but also every aspect of city life.
Nick McNamara, VP Sales EU at Eseye
Image source: Shutterstock/hin255