London’s Mayor recently launched a ‘Smart City’ board with a remit to develop a vision for a ‘Smart London’, which basically means figuring out how to use ides, technology and data to make the UK’s capital a leading global city to live, work and invest.
London itself has always been at the forefront of the application of new technologies in many areas, and it’s easy to highlight transport as an area where London has always benefitted from ingenious solutions – the Tube (150 years old and just had wifi retrofitted), Oyster Card, Congestion Charge, and Boris Bikes to name a few.
The term ‘smart city’ means different things to different people, but there is no doubt that drawing together some of the UK’s leading entrepreneurs, academics and business leaders into a single and focused group will have benefits for London, and will present great opportunities for both public and private enterprises.
The convergence of multiple technological paradigm shifts – such as the huge growth in mobile devices and applications, big data and cloud computing – coupled with the recent economic downturn and the resultant need for enterprises of all shapes and sizes to ‘do more with less’ could turn out to be a recipe for accelerated co-operation across public and private sectors.
It’s unlikely that the London Smart City board will spot The Next Big Thing. What’s more likely is that the board will be able to identify new ways to use previously disparate ideas, hardware and software applications.
The specific challenges that face London are not so different from the challenges that face developed cities globally -, a growing and ageing population, dated infrastructure, traffic congestion, and the need to reduce energy use. Re-configuring London to meet these central challenges will not be easy.
In recognising the need to consciously develop London into a smart city, our politicians could well be providing huge opportunities for entrepreneurs willing to take on large-scale problems and apply creative, sophisticated and long-term solutions to complex problems.
When building applications, we should do so with an eye on how they will ‘scale’, or grow over time. A smart-city has to be a scalable city.
Jump-starting a smart city ecosystem in London could lead to a halo effect of new ways of thinking being applied not only to those cities that are first to adopt new solutions, but also to component industries, not just technology, but healthcare, transport, education, finance and this could well scale from the local, up to the national and even international level.
Ideas that start in London have a habit of changing the world, and it’s great to know that London may well come out of the global recession as a world-leader in smart city thinking.
A version of this article was first published by icreon.co.uk