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Laying smart foundations

Smart cities may be the future, but that doesn't mean that they will appear without a great deal of thought and no small amount of hard work. Richard Martin looks at their potential benefits and the obstacles still in their way

Smart city projects that typically look to use the Internet of Things, ubiquitous sensors using Low Powered Wide Area (LPWA) technologies, and big data, among other technologies, can be found in London, Glasgow, Bristol, Exeter and Manchester. They are working to improve the lives of citizens and the efficiency of businesses and public services, with support from the Future Cities Catapult.

Smart cities also have the potential to improve citizens’ safety – through combining public and private data with the IoT, it is possible to get first-responders to the right place faster by finding clear routes, and detect serious incidents rather than waiting for them to be called in (gunshot detectors are being installed in some US cities); and with predictive analytics, it is possible to get assets in the best position even before events happen.

In the UK, we have already seen how the use of cameras linked to the Police National Computer system detects road-tax violations and tracks down suspect vehicles. Links to a wider range of information sources such as smart buildings could increase the effectiveness and safety of both fire and police operations. In the long term, there is no doubt that smart cities will be big business. Consultancy Frost & Sullivan estimates that the total market for smart city solutions will be $1.5 trillion in 2020, with smart energy predicted to be the fastest-growing market segment, with a CAGR of nearly 20 per cent.

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