Are we just going to have new shiny places for shiny people?
From our highlighted news this week, you’ll see that the first town-scale smart development to be built in Europe or America is set for construction on Britain’s South Coast.
The project is centred around the redevelopment of the Fawley Power station, near Southampton, formerly Europe’s biggest oil-fired power station. Standing on the largest brownfield site in Hampshire, it was closed in 2013, decommissioned, and sold in 2015 to developer Fawley Waterside.
The vision is to transform the 300-acre site into a thriving residential and commercial waterside community – hailed as the first truly smart city to be developed in the UK.
The Web Science Institute at the University of Southampton along with a gaggle of technology companies including Vodaphone, Siemens, IBM and Cisco have come on board to help construct this new so-called “merchant” city with “intelligent infrastructure”. By all accounts, it looks set to become a model for the future of urban development.
No Silicon Valley futuristic architecture here rather classical architectural design underpinned by ideal-of-the matter total connectivity in part made easy by an existing network of tunnels under the site. And talking of underground facilities, (while private car ownership is still in vogue at least) parking for 2, 000 cars will be off the streets, in an underground basement space that underlies the gargantuan Turbine Hall of the Power Station.
It is expected that mixed-use buildings will beget a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem that will see around 2, 000 jobs in advance manufacturing, marine and technology, plus those in support services such as cafes, retail, leisure and education. 1, 500 new homes, a new school, marina and hotel are all on the cards, along with sustainable transportation, smart energy, a focus on green spaces and protection of the natural habitats.
It looks like a win/win but I guess that depends on where you are. I’ve just got off the phone with Texas-based Darren Bates who runs a consulting firm (www.darrenbatesllc.com) and global resource that is all about inclusive ands accessible smart cities. He believes that smart cities can only be successful if they provide tangible benefits to all residents including those with disabilities, seniors, and other historically underserved populations, a view shared by many.
I haven’t spoken to anyone regarding Fowey, and I hope to be reporting on it as it develops, but it’ll be interesting to see what issues the public consultations might uncover.
However, in terms of a possible template for future smart city development I can’t help thinking, don’t we need to widen our vision a little from digital, savvy entrepreneurs, given that we have the opportunity to build a real life smart town from the ground up?
Would any developer ever include in their presentation pack, not just a hotel but also a state of the art home/hub for dementia sufferers or special needs friendly street infrastructure? This is the stuff of every day life for thousands of people – many who are excluded from the digital wave, or are we just going to have new shiny places for shiny people?
This nicely leads me onto Cardiff City Council that has recently deployed the Philips’ CityTouch streetlight management system. During public consultation the City consulted with people with visual and hearing impairment to review the lighting trial.
On February 20th I’ll be talking to Matthew Wakelam, Head of Infrastructure and Operations, City of Cardiff talk about results from a worldwide survey on challenges of smart infrastructure and how installing smart systems is changing Cardiff. This webinar is run in association with Philips Lighting, which sponsored our latest white paper Smart Cities: Understanding the challenges and opportunities based on a survey that we conducted at the end of last year. You can sign up for this on our website smartcitiesworld.net