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What are ‘smart cities’ and will they change the UK in 2018?

As technology progresses and proptech sweeps the market, efficient, sustainable and prosperous smart cities are the next big buzz word at the top of many countries’ agendas.

London has been named one of the top three smart cities in the world, alongside Singapore and Barcelona, due to its focus on communities while implementing technology, according to a report by Philips Lighting and SmartCitiesWorld.

With autonomous and electric technology becoming the norm in many cities across the world, London has been leading the way since technology across the city became a major focus for Mayor Sadiq Khan last year. He set out his mission to make the capital a top place to live, work and invest with a focus on digital technology being used to tackle economic, social and environmental challenges, including supporting cleantech in the city.

Saving and making money

As well as saving money, smart cities create thousands of new jobs in technology. In Barcelona, according to the research, 47,000 new jobs were created through the implementation of Internet of Things (IoT) systems, with the city also saving €42.5m on water, and bringing in €36.5m annually through smart parking.

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Singapore was praised as a top smart city for its forward-planning of infrastructure, while Barcelona’s government driving change and savings put it in the top spot.

Jacques Letzelter, segment manager at Philips Lighting, said: “New technologies can already transform the way cities deliver, operate and maintain public amenities, from lighting and transportation to connectivity and health services. Often, however, adoption is slowed by the division of work and the selection of technology that doesn’t easily work together or integrate with other city services.

“Fortunately, there are many successful examples of smart city projects that prove these obstacles can be overcome, with the right collaborative approach and integration technologies. These projects show that smart cities can bring about better lives and enhanced safety for their citizens.”

So what are smart cities?

There are numerous definitions for what a smart city is, and it tends to depend on the focus of each individual town – whether it’s primarily data-driven or citizen-focused.

For example, the British Standards Institute describes smart cities as “the effective integration of physical, digital and human systems in the built environment to deliver sustainable, prosperous and inclusive future for its citizen”. And according to IBM, a smart city is “one that makes optimal use of all the interconnected information available today to better understand and control its operations and optimise the use of limited resources”.

Manchester currently has a Smarter City Programme in place, which has been developed “to explore ways of making the city work better through use of technologies”. It adds on its website: “The programme takes things that the city is already doing around transport, health, environment and energy efficiency and aims to encourage further investment, through supporting pilot projects and working with partners in the universities, business and the public sector.”

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