Smart Cities

City (R)evolution

One of the themes of this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona is the ‘fourth industrial revolution’. This ‘revolution’ is the move to a much more automated society. Therefore, it’s all about conjoining processes via ‘the network’, and machines making their own decisions based on some type of ‘deep learning’ or AI. The end-game of the revolution, it is proposed, is all about making society a better, easier, happier place in which to live.

The move to an automated society is rather complex. As the organisers of the Congress put it, “this theme [the fourth industrial revolution] unravels the complex web of technology trends, partnerships, business concerns and opportunities that enterprises of all kinds need to address to survive and thrive in a digital automated world, and the demands this places on city and national governments.” 

Cities and nations are slow moving ships. They are also highly complex and re-engineering them is extremely difficult. Moreover, the ‘estate’ (infrastructure and built environment) may not be suited to a rapid move to the fourth revolution.

‘Revolution’ implies some type of big bang solution. But it’s probably better to think of relatively quick (but iterative) wins that collectively create the revolution (over time).

For example, several years ago, London Underground introduced the Oyster card. This was a new contactless ticketing system that removed the need for paper tickets. Commuters could charge up their cards online and just go use the tube. With contactless technology installed in the ticket barriers, London Underground was also able to announce just a couple of years ago that – in addition to Oyster cards – commuters could also use contactless payment cards and mobile phone contactless payment. This meant non-Londoners and day-trippers could also use contactless payment without purchasing an Oyster card. Soon Google and other mapping vendors added live feeds from Transport for London into mobile mapping apps, meaning that passengers could avoid very busy routes (e.g. during the London 2012 Olympics). Therefore, progress is iterative. But, over time, multiple actors and layers of innovation make things smarter, and simpler to use and enhance customer experience.

In time, so-called ‘deep learning’ could augment live feeds to make suggestions re. alternative travel routes based on aggregated data and data projections. Increased use of multi-functional sensors around cities could allow more information to be communicated more quickly to make the city experience better. Recently, the University of Manchester announced that it had developed a new type of graphene based sensor that could be integrated into an RFID chip that could then communicate with a wide area network. Over time, graphene sensors will be able to communicate multiple types of sensor information: possibly sensing pollutants, warfare agents, even explosives, thereby protecting citizens. Or simply monitoring air quality. But sensors will abound, measuring and feeding both quantitative and qualitative data.

Sensors, of course, are just one element of a wider ecosystem designed to augment and improve the environment and the fixed estate of the city. Over time sensors will provide the networks upon which self-driving vehicles will depend, or unmanned public transport. Sensors will also help to visualise the city with citizens, themselves, feeding into these data visualisations using pervasive mobile devices and even wearable (mobile) sensors.

These things must work together. The orchestration doesn’t necessarily require master planning or grand, centralised schemes. Rather it’s about data sharing and different specialists looking at different but interlocking problems in their own way. Collectively they tend to spark ideas, opportunities and improvements off each other. Increasingly, the fourth industrial revolution feels like evolution.

Sensors and the so-called Internet of Things (IoT) have key parts to play. But national government, too, needs to be more aware of the digital opportunities available. According to IHS Markit Technology, as of the second quarter of 2017, the United Kingdom was the country with the highest number of smart city projects (45) in Europe. This helps the UK build significant expertise – and expertise that has relevance well beyond these shores.

It’s said that smart cities, increasingly, need to focus on the three I’s i.e. they need to be instrumented, interconnected and intelligent. Instrumentation (and data) is of little use if no-one sees it or acts upon it. Similarly, it’s tricky to allow people to make smarter decisions if the information is out of date or inaccurate or simply not available. The end-game is about making society a bit better for the people who live in it. Technology, unquestionably, can help.

Smart Cities Workshop Speakers

Urban Transformation Perspectives

Charbel Aoun is a member of Future Cities Catapult’s board and has spent more than two decades in Fortune 100 and technology startups. Charbel has also spent 10 years researching, implementing and advising companies on a range of topics he is passionate about: from smart cities to digitization. He is also the founder of LUCID Urban Transformation.

Charbel previously worked as Chief of Sales and Strategy Officer at Enevo, an IOT startup which he joined from Schneider Electric where he was Global President & CEO of their Smart Cities business. Prior to that he was in Cisco as Managing Director of their smart and connected communities in EMEA and Latin America.

At our London workshop on April 27 Charbel will outline examples of how technology is used in practice in helping cities deliver better services. He’ll also outline some of the key challenges facing city governments seeking to achieve maximum value while faced with limited budgets.

Citizen Experience Smart Cities Workshop Videos

Where Next 311?

At our recent Conversations Workshop in San Francisco we had the chance to get the latest thinking on 311 services from the Deputy Director of San Francisco’s 311 service, Andy Maimoni. Andy was joined by Verint’s VP for Government and Public Sector, David Moody. Both discussed how 311 might evolve in an increasingly multi-channel future.

Smart Cities United Kingdom

Future Cities Video Series

On November 17 we’re in San Francisco meeting with city innovators and technologists discussing future cities and citizen engagement. Just a few weeks ago we were in Newcastle upon Tyne having conversations with people from Newcastle City Council, Sunderland City Council and Newcastle University.

You can watch all the videos from the workshops here but you’ll need to register for the site to see them.  It’s quick and easy and free.

But here’s a taster for you if you’re not already registered on the site.

We recorded this short interview with David Moody of Verint and Sam Markey of Future Cities Catapult at our recent workshop in Newcastle upon Tyne.


Smart Cities

Smart Cities and Internet of Everything

Alan Morrison, PwC
Alan Morrison, PwC

According to Alan Morrison of PwC’s Center for Technology and Innovation, “The Internet of Things should become a much richer phenomenon, an internet of not just connected things, but a collaboration environment where machines as well as humans can interact, at scale.”

Alan argues that the collaboration environment hasn’t emerged as yet because validated transaction, process management and intelligence capabilities haven’t been in place. But there is an opportunity for these things to emerge as blockchain and smart contracts create a more governed and transactional internet.

Alan will be joining our Citizen2020 Conversations Workshop on Thursday, Nov 17 to chat about these emerging opportunities and how city government might embrace the Internet of Everything.


Smart Cities Workshop Videos

Dr Yvonne Huebner: Big Data and The City

Dr Yvonne Huebner of Newcastle University looked a little further into the future than some of our other speakers at our recent Newcastle workshop. She outlined some of her work at the University within the ‘urban observatory’.

The talk tells us something about how analytics can help with city and transport planning. She also touches on some of the issues relating to the creation of sensor networks around cities (and the planning process relating to them).


Citizen Engagement Smart Cities Workshop Videos

Tyneside Perspectives: Citizen Engagement

Paul Doney is ICT Manager at Newcastle City Council. He’s justifiably proud of his city. In fact just today it was announced that Newcastle will host the £5m Great Exhibition of the North in 2018. So it’s a city on the up.

However, Paul was more focused on how his employer, Newcastle City Council, is increasingly making use of the web channel to engage better with citizens and employees. The City Council is on a journey that will lead to more seamless multi-channel engagement.

I interviewed Paul at our recent Citizen2020 Conversations Workshop just a week or so ago.


Smart Cities Workshop Videos

The City and Data

Sam Markey of Future Cities Catapult was good enough to present at our recent Future Cities event in Newcastle upon Tyne. Sam focused on a couple of recommendations made in a recent report focused on the UK ‘Northern Powerhouse’ cities that argued that, in essence, cities needed to get better at using data. By doing so, cities could provide better service to citizens.

Sam’s presentation provides several examples of how UK cities are becoming more switched on to the possibilities that better data management provides.


Smart Cities Workshop Speakers

Newcastle and The Portal

In adopting a ‘digital first’ approach to citizen engagement a spotlight shines on the web. If cities are to ‘engage’ via the web then the website needs to do so much more than inform. It needs to engage, and it needs to be a portal into multiple services.

Paul Doney of Newcastle City Council will discuss – at our upcoming Tyneside workshop – just how Newcastle plans to create much richer citizen experiences.  In short, it’s about getting information to and from the Council and Citizen by making processes tighter and more joined-up.

To an extent this relates to application consolidation and integration of back-end processes. Paul will talk about some of the challenges and the types of tech that’s made it all possible.

He’ll also discuss how portal technology is transforming employee engagement.

We have a few guest places at our workshop if you’d like to attend.


Citizen Engagement Smart Cities

Is George Osborne the man to revive the Northern Powerhouse?

The Northern Powerhouse was George Osborne’s baby. It may well have been thrown out with the bath-water.

However, after Osborne’s rapid post-Brexit referendum expulsion from the British Cabinet, he’s back with a new ‘think-tank’ designed to revive the Northern Powerhouse idea.

Launching his new Northern Powerhouse Partnership today he’s expected to say:

“When I launched the idea of Northern Powerhouse I said I would work tirelessly with anyone and everyone to make it a reality. But even I have been taken aback by the huge support it’s attracted, across political parties, businesses and communities. In the space of just two years, we’ve created powerful new mayors, committed to huge new transport and science projects, and attracted investment from around the world. There’s a real excitement now in the North about what we can achieve if we work together. I don’t want us to lose that.”

However, Northern Powerhouse was criticized by many for focusing too much on just one city: Manchester. Osborne’s own constituency, Tatton, is close to the city. But it’s also a constituency likely to disappear under new Boundary Commission plans. Osborne may also be seen to be just too much like political damaged goods to revive Northern Powerhouse.

In fact the very concept also lacked definition. For some, Northern Powerhouse was about power, politics and devolution. For others it was about industrial strategy or R&D.

At our upcoming workshop on Future Cities we’ll have several city representatives and thinkers discussing the citizen engagement opportunities that growing, more powerful, cities need to think about. We’ll have speakers from Leeds, Newcastle and Sunderland – and representatives from other cities – that will outline what the most important cities need to think about as they plan how they’ll support future citizens.