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Plasma Technology
SMART Cities in the SMART Environment

27 Sep 2018   Author: Frazer Anderson

 "Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?" —T.S. Eliot.

Part 3

Cities are home to more than half of the world’s population, and they are expected to add another 2.5 billion new residents by 2050. Consequently, cities face increasing environmental pressures and infrastructure needs, as well as growing demands from residents to deliver a better quality of life and to do so at a sustainable cost.

There is no standard definition of a smart city. In BSI PAS: 180 (yes there are British Standards to help the set up of smart cities) a Smart city is stated to be one that demonstrates "the effective integration of physical, digital and human systems in the built environment to deliver a sustainable, prosperous and inclusive future for its citizens".

Smart cities are not just about the technology and exploiting the power of open data but about how that data is then shared to enable a city to function better. Smart cities put data, which they generate in mind boggling volumes, and digital technology to work with the goal of improving the quality of life. Finding the insights in all that data should help local governments to respond to fluid situations, allocate resources based on facts rather than supposition (assuming politics don’t get in the way of course), and plan for the future. Technology is also available which allows residents direct access to refined data. Smartphones are becoming the keys to the city, putting instant information about transport, traffic, parking, health services, safety alerts, and community news.

Bristol overtook London as the UK’s leading smart city in October 2017, a couple of years after scooping the 2015 European Green Capital award. Bristol’s Smart City Research and Development network platform is overseen by Bristol City Council and the University of Bristol, and operates under the name Bristol is Open. This year, Bristol beat off stiff competition from Barcelona, Dubai, New York, Singapore and Yinchuan to win the Smart City Award (Judges' Choice) at the GSMA's 2018 Global Mobile Awards (The GLOMOs).

While allowing local businesses to test new technologies in real world situations, the city has fibre networks in the ground, a heterogeneous network that allows for 5G testing, and radio frequency mesh network transmitted via lampposts.

Milton Keynes has invested in smart bins which alert refuse collectors when they are full, smart sensors in water systems to enable leaks to be better detected, and a city-wide transport information network. Newcastle is developing a smart city strategy and there are trials on how to give priority on roads to non-emergency vehicles transporting patients between hospitals, cutting NHS fuel costs and improving patient care. In the more distant future, we may see driverless buses and robot repair workers to fix the potholes or repair leaks.

Also in the UK, in addition to the standards strategy, the Cities Standards Institute, a joint initiative of the BSI and the Future Cities Catapult, brings together cities and key industry leaders and innovators to work together to identify the challenges facing cities, providing solutions to common problems and seeking to define best practice solutions.

Globally, many aspects of smart environments are already in use through internet-controlled building management systems which regulate the lighting and temperature within buildings, in-traffic management systems where variable speed limits ease congestion, and apps which feed real-time information about train delays to users.

In summary, Smart city strategies need to start with people, not technology. “Smartness” is not just installing digital interfaces in traditional infrastructure or streamlining city operations. It is about using technology and data purposefully to make better decisions and deliver a better quality of life.

Across the Oxford Instruments Group, we are active in seeking ways in which to both support the development of key “smart” technologies, and to integrate the benefits of these technologies into our products. 

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