London is soon to birth a host of smart city opportunities that will result in a decade long programme of improvements as dramatic as those from its Victorian heyday
Whilst London has been a major contributor to the EU-wide push for smart city solutions in recent years, there is sadly, little visible evidence to illustrate her efforts thus far. This is not only due to the familiar long-tail entry challenges all committed smart city programs experience; but a unique set of regulatory standards obstacles and behavioural/adoption/trial questions in a bustling, highly fractured, historical and complex international metropolis such as London.
The Mayor’s Office in the form of the Smart London Board has done some sterling work and made considerable progress toward easing consolidation amongst London’s regions, introducing best-practice methods and establishing new standards; but alas, the urbanisation variables at play are too multifarious and requires far more than mere edicts from above. A snapshot today would confirm that we’re playing catch-up to a handful of counterpart smart cities in Europe, the USA and Asia.
But it’s going to be all-change in the short to medium term. By 2020-2025 London and those that dwell within it will have experienced dramatic alternations from the city we know today. This will not simply be due to the tomorrow’s world imaginings of those who have laid the smart city foundations of recent years; but far more likely due to the range of urgent challenges London currently faces.
Whilst the city has an enviable series of historical civic successes, these have rarely been gifted thanks to bureaucratic foresight or insightful patronage. More often than not, solutions were found when the environmental and human indicators were at critical boiling-over point. All Londoners are aware that today the city is crying out for major reforms and alterations.
The London of today possesses both prized desirability and crippling challenges in equal measure; unsurprisingly, they’re more often than not joined at the hip. Air quality, lack of affordable/social housing, the increasing marginalisation of public spaces, traffic gridlock, poor and expensive public transport - and yet it remains the worlds most ‘successful city’ according to The JLL City Momentum Index (CMI) presented at The World Economic Forum in Davos this year; is still the world ’s most popular city tourist destination for five of the last seven years according to the Mastercard Global Destination City Index, and despite fears to the contrary, still reigns supreme as the property investment capital of the world. This happily equitable arrangement is now perilously close to finding itself in deficit and steep decline however. The dramatic acceleration that smart city solutions allow are key to ensure London’s continued success.
Whether it’s the trailblazing driverless transport work in the Royal Borough of Greenwich, the smart buildings technology of Newham Council or the ground-breaking contributions from world class London-based think tanks such as Digital Catapult, NESTA, Imperial College and The Royal College of Art working alongside a host of commercial contributors from established enterprises and start-up groups.
Transport, housing, energy, waste and water management, public safety, citizen and civic service delivery, education and social/healthcare provision are the low hanging fruit, and all there for the disruptive taking. The investment, innovation and commitment that has gone into a series of commissions, feasibilities and trials are now set to come good. Hold on to your hats, London is soon to birth a host of smart city opportunities that will result in a decade long program of improvements as dramatic as those from its Victorian heyday.
James Ghani is the co-founder of HiveHub; Smart City Guides.
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