New report reveals public apathy for smart cities

Only 18 per cent of the British public has heard of a ‘smart city’, according to the IET report ‘Smart Cities – Time to involve the People’.

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Which also reveals a lack of consumer consensus on the relevance of technologies typically associated with nextgen digitally-empowered environments. Cities’ adoption of new technologies has traditionally involved little consultation with consumers. As a result, the report suggests that the public has yet to buy into the idea of ‘smart cities’ – and be convinced of the value and benefits that technology, delivered on a city-scale, could bring to their daily lives.

What’s on offer?

New disruptive technologies and applications such as on-demand taxi services,likeUber,andAirbnb-style online accommodation services may help to change hearts and minds, and the report also cites projects in Glasgow,Peterborough, Bristol and London that have successfully taken a people-centred approach to smart cities. Even so, the findings suggest there is still some way to go before the concept is likely to be embraced by the public.

What the report found and how to move forward

“In spite of substantial investment from the Government, local authorities and businesses, most people don’t understand the concept or, more importantly, how ‘smart city’ digital communications technology could improve their quality of life by enhancing infrastructure and public services,” says Alan Howard, IET Sector Head for Thought Leadership. “Promoting lessons learned from pilots like those in Glasgow, Peterborough, Bristol and London will help inspire, inform and influence more local authorities and communities about how technologies can improve the quality of the daily lives of their citizens. “It’s also important that public authorities, businesses and service providers understand the innovations and issues that people want to see in ‘smart cities’ and communities – and put greater emphasis on the human and societal outcomes of their initiatives,” Alan continues. “Putting people first, rather than technology, is essential if we are to improve quality of life and create liveable, connected, sustainable cities and communities in which to live, work and invest. Without this, we risk developing technology enabled cities and communities that people neither recognise or value.”

When those questioned were asked how useful five smart city technologies might be if they were introduced in their local area,theIET’s Smart City report revealed a lack of any clear consensus.

    • 29 per cent of respondents felt that ‘intelligent’ streetlights activated by movement to improve safety, deter crime and save energy would be most useful.
    • 25 per cent were most interested in buildings that generate their own energy – and collect and recycle water and waste.
    • 23 per cent thought sensors embedded in roads and buildings which measure traffic flows, predict congestion, and adjust traffic lights and signals, would be most useful.
    • 15 per cent would most like to receive up-to-the-minute travel information via smart phone, enabling them to plan and pay for journeys, using different types of transport.
    • 8 per cent saw most value in being able to order driverless or electric transport from their smart phone.

To read the full report, please visit www.theiet.org/smartcities