This week the Waldorf Hilton hosted Ovum’s Smart to Future Cities conference. If you haven’t been able to attend the sessions, never fear, I was there for you.

Smart cities are aiming to integrate energy, mobility and ICT, and in turn lowering carbon emissions. We need to look towards the future and consider the way our expanding population will live in the cities of the future and the problems they will face. 

Steve Turner, Head of City Policy for Manchester spoke on the UK-China Smart Green Cities Planning and Governance projects, which are working at city and state levels within China to open the market for UK SMEs. The Manchester / Wuhan twin city initiative means that Manchester is able to work with Digital China to develop joint metrics for measuring a smart city.

Nine SMEs are currently working to help smarten the Wuhan Qinshan Riverside District development which is being developed as a wholly smart city through the partnership with Manchester.

The internet of things and development of smart cities is bringing things like personalised management plans in healthcare into focus as a real prospect for the future. There is a consumer push for the system to be more seamless. The US is moving towards a much more integrated healthcare system and the rest of the world will soon follow.

Siemens has become a major part of the IoT industry, bringing its technology to work with condition monitoring in relation to things like wind turbines and how their efficiency can be maximised through adjustments. Siemens also operates peak power alarms to ensure there is no loss of power through system overloads. Energy security is becoming a big realm of interest, with ways to protect and sustain business becoming paramount. Emergency outages such as Hurricane Katrina saw a limited number of industries prepared to protect and readily back up their energy supply in order to protect their business.

So knowing that we need to be saving energy for our future needs because of the limited nature of our current resources, we need to be focussed on innovation. Research and innovation are not always on the same page as reality, cities are not ready for some of the levels of innovation that are being developed.

Companies like SKIDATA started by providing ski access provisions, but now provide event ticketing and car park services which are managed through smart phone applications.

“The solutions should be centred around the end customer and be easily accessible,” said Simone Frank who is in charge of Business Development / Urban for SKIDATA.

Options both for the future, and even the present, are things like storage lockers for online purchases pickup at train stations etc. managed via a smartphone app that notifies the locker holder when their package has arrived. Park and ride and bike and ride systems that are linked to the public transport systems.

Smart phone penetration of 80% in the UK means that it is the best way to get in touch with a customer. They can pay, order services, manage those services and be served ads targeting their needs and usage history.

What we need to realise is the vision of smart cities is really a smart environment, even though we do not yet know what all of the potential smart services of the future will be. We need to manage the reuse and sharing of resources.

Guy Redmill from ISPM said “there should be a vision behind what the smart city should ultimately become, if we take the overall vision, then we must consider the smart city cannot be made up of individual project silos, because then those silos are not interconnected.”

Throughout the conference there was many mentions of silos, and I think Guy Redmill hit the nail on the head, saying the future smart city needs to be considered as a whole. If we implement many smart initiatives individually that do not communicate or connect to each other, the city will not be all that smart – the data being mined won’t be able to refer to other data points, and overall, data is where the sm

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