When looking at Europe’s smart city readiness, the UK is behind on its smart city targets and is at risk of falling behind other European countries, according to research from Citi Horizons. Over 80 per cent of the 187 UK councils asked to take part in this research had limited awareness and little to no involvement in smart cities. The report also warned “it is clear that councils are unable to make smart, connected cities a priority”.
But how does a community become smart? The process is no simple task. Budget constraints, identifying priorities, finding best practice, navigating intricate technology, and engaging business and the community are all challenge areas.
Clearly this is a major problem – it’s not just that communities are struggling to prioritise for future programmes; an underlying problem may be that the primary conditions for a successful smart community have been overlooked: It is essential to have in place the right people with the right mind-set. The prevailing culture must be data driven and apply scientific analysis, it must nurture new ideas, enable risks to be taken and be dynamic enough to hone in on adoption of what is successful. Only then can real progress be made.
GIS technology, which combines digital mapping and data analytics to present a dynamic view of the world, is helping redesign old services and develop new ones. It is enabling crowdsourcing from citizens, demonstrating progress on initiatives and sharing open data to enable businesses to develop and target new products and services.
Every day, millions of people all around the globe are using GIS to explore multiple layers of data, enabling them to analyse complex scenarios and make the right decisions. Ecology consultants, for example, are using GIS to tackle the difficult task of finding suitable land for sustainable housing development.
Given what can be a complicated process, communities need clear guidelines to help navigate them through the journey to becoming ‘smart’. Ultimately, organisations that understand the importance of connecting data will see opportunities where other communities may not.
Also, every smart community may be different, but they all share common operational traits. Each relies on real-time intelligence for evidence-based decision-making, more effective collaboration, and public engagement.
Using data to act in the community's best interest, proactive administrations need to embody the following five key characteristics:
Using data in the correct way helps the drive towards smart cities and embodies the ideals of a smarter world. Whether these solutions facilitate smart analytics, smart collaboration, smart working, smart development or smart use of data, they can help to overcome the growing challenges of a growing population. Organisations who are using GIS to do this, understand conflicts of interest, make better-informed decisions and operate more efficiently to create this better, smarter world.
By Simon Weaver, Smart Communities Programme Manager, Esri UK