The UK needs to take three significant steps forward in smart technology to avoid its cities becoming as heavily polluted, overcrowded and unhealthy as Delhi and Beijing. That’s the view of BIO’s Melanie Pittham in a recent article for PublicTechnology.net
She sees the three key issues in terms of technology as connectivity, interoperability and mass or shared transport.
Commenting on Delhi and Beijing’s problems with pollution and poor living standards she says ‘UK cities like London, of course, are still worlds away from these overpopulated urban sprawls – but we are rapidly catching up. The government’s response to the country’s air pollution, which is regularly found to exceed safe levels, has been widely dismissed as half-hearted, and it’s clear that something must be done urgently.’
Beginning with the issue of connectivity she notes that even in countries commonly thought of as technologically advanced, fast, reliable connectivity is not necessarily a given.
“The developments of alternative methods, such as ‘visible light’, have the potential to offer a far more efficient way of transmitting data than radio waves, with greater capacity. Tests in Tallinn, Estonia, found that ‘Li-Fi’ (Light Fidelity) technology achieved speeds of 1GB per second, beating traditional Wi-Fi a hundred times over.”
Moving on to interoperability she talks about the need to invest in systems that can talk to each other in order to create efficiency and drive change. ‘The government must invest in an open technology infrastructure in order to make the massive amounts of data collected by a smart city useful as quickly as possible.’
Finally she discusses transport, one of the biggest bugbears and causes of stress for city dwellers. ‘Governments need to embrace the shift from personal transportation to a shared, on-demand first mobility model…the government needs to be examining ways of making the most of every tool at their disposal to create modes of mass public transportation that make inter-city journeys and commutes as easy as possible for citizens.’
She sums up by saying ‘Cities will only become smarter through the careful implementation of core foundations that support the intelligent micro-initiatives that will make a real and valid difference to lives.’
With many other issues – Brexit, the housing crisis, global relations currently taking centre stage in British politics – it’s easy to see how smart city initiatives could be put on the backburner. But if the government wants UK cities to continue to be desirable places to live and work in the future and compete with other locations around the world, they need to get behind the technology and infrastructure they need – fast.
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