It was five years ago when the government of London decided to develop and implement the Smart London Plan. The primary focus was to assist the city in managing economic and environmental systems, transportation, and social settings. Now that some time has passed, the original system has become somewhat outdated.
Now, the city is working to change the plan and develop it even further to give the system a boost and improve their smart city capabilities.
The Smartest City in the World
Sitting together at the Four Seasons during the SXSW in Austin, Texas back in March of 2018, the people from TechRepublic talked with London’s chief digital offer from the city. The premise was what was next for the city to help in giving the title of the “smartest city in the world.”
Theo Blackwell, the chief digital officer that commented on what’s next for the improvements for their community had the following to say:
“We’re updating our Smart London Plan from 2013. It is very much a creature of its time, and we need a new plan for the next five years. So we’re in the midst of a listening exercise to develop a new smart London plan, and it has two main elements. One is to develop our innovation in what would traditionally be called smart city expertise such as innovation for autonomous vehicles and the big systems that are happening across the city. And secondly, and this is the new element, really building the digital capability of our public services by focusing on digital leadership, common standards, and data sharing.”
Improving City Living
Following the 2012 Summer Olympics that were hosted in London, the people decided that they needed to do something to make the region better for both visitors and those living as residents. The focus was aimed at identifying the true value that smart city technology could bring to a large city like London.
Blackwell further stated, “Now we’re focusing not just on systems, but also on the quality use and management of data so that we can improve innovation for our city.” They are open to working with all sizes of startups and innovators when it comes to their smart city technology updates. The focus isn’t solely on bigger businesses.
It has been determined that with the 650 different service areas in the 33 boroughs of the city, there are challenges regarding the size of the area being covered. That’s not to mention the diversity of the average 250,000 citizens in each area.
“So, London’s kind of below the surface, there’s an extraordinary level of complexity to the city and for us to make London the smartest city in world. There’s a tremendous opportunity to work with all of these boroughs, but also we need to focus on the collaboration between the various elements in the city, and that remains really big focus of my job, to bring that collaboration together so we can express citizen needs in a way that the tech community can understand more clearly,” Blackwell said. He also mentioned how open data has been essential to the city for quite a while.
Mr. Blackwell also said that all of this is just the “tip of the iceberg” when it comes to the possibilities for the city and implementing a smart city technology so that it sits at the heart of city life. We at the moment have 700 open data sets that are used by thousands of app developers. Services like Citymapper essentially have been created off the back of the open information coming from Transport for London, London’s transport network. We have a community of over 13,000 developers, 80 live data feeds just from transport information alone,” he said.
He also stated, “The real thing that’s going to help cities is management use access to public data. There’s sort of innovation that we don’t even know of that will arise from that and so an important part of our strategy is not just traditional smart cities and smart traffic lights and things like that. But it’s actually built in the digital capability of our public institutions so that when we bring together these vast data sets that we can actually use them.”
London’s state-wide healthcare system is the National Health Service or NHS. Blackwell brought up, “So when we talk about serving the citizen, we’re also talking about how we integrate the data that we can get around health and adult social care into the mix,” he said. “The possibilities for improvement extend beyond discussions around transportation well into a fuller view of the citizen. And if we can crack that with the appropriate safeguards around privacy and respect for personal data, there’s tremendous opportunity in London.”
With privacy and personal data being a top priority of smart city technology, Blackwell stated “Privacy is built into the heart of the new system that’s being discussed. In the UK there’s been a very, very strong push, not only because of new data laws … but also a national discussion around people’s rights and if we strike the right balance, will be able to make the healthcare system much more effective and to work in a much more integrated