New report states people, not technology, must be the focus of smart city planning

Posted: 12 March 2019 | | No comments yet

‘Rethinking Smart Futures’ draws on five expert roundtable discussions that took place with industry leaders, policy makers and academics throughout 2018.

Failing to put people above technology in the planning of smart cities and transport networks

Failing to put people above technology in the planning of smart cities and transport networks could lead to divided and socially exclusive communities across the UK, says a new report published by PwC and London Transport Museum.

In collaboration with international law firm Gowling WLG and the global transport and security company Thales, the ‘Rethinking Smart Futures’ report outlines a new vision for smart cities that are socially inclusive and focused on people, enabled by transport and powered by technology and data.

Sam Mullins, Director, London Transport Museum, said: “Often, the pursuit of new technologies has been the driving force behind our move toward a smarter future. But if the advancement of technology remains an end in itself and is not motivated by meeting the needs of people, then we risk creating smart cities and transport networks which result in communities across the UK becoming divided and socially exclusive. Bringing together perspectives from industry leaders, policymakers and academics, our latest Interchange report looks towards a smart future for the UK that is focused on people.”

The report identifies the challenges to achieving this vision and calls for central and local governments, the public sector and private industries to join forces to take forward key recommendations. These include defining a shared vision for the UK’s smart future and re-defining measures for success; creating trusted and regulated processes and networks for data-sharing that are resilient to cyber-attacks; establishing a new, regulated national transport framework for public-private procurement and investment in innovation and technology; and collaboration between central and local governments with the private sector to invest in and fund local schemes that support ‘blue-sky’ innovation. 

Grant Klein, Transport Leader at PwC, said: “We found three key hurdles in developing smart cities: too much choice from an array of innovations; too many cooks with competing interests which can lead to inaction or disconnects; and when it comes to strategies, one size definitely doesn’t fit all cities. Our report analyses how to navigate and overcome these roadblocks. There are elements of the ‘smart city’ emerging across the UK, tackling issues such as transport, health and data in cities including Leeds, Birmingham and Manchester. But progress overall is still piecemeal across the UK. If we are to encourage economic growth and meet the evolving needs of our citizens, we need to step things up a gear and put transport at the heart of every decision.”

Giles Clifford, Partner, Gowling WLG, said: “New technologies have an immense power to change the way in which we all travel, work and live, but if this is seen solely as a commercial opportunity we will miss the really exciting possibilities to transform lives for the better. Adaptions to the legal framework, which is an essential part of the landscape in both fashioning and reflecting our societal response to changes of this magnitude, will need to be part of this to enable a genuinely imaginative and holistic approach to the opportunities.”

Mark Garrity, Director, Strategy Sales & Marketing for Thales Ground Transportation Systems, said: “Transport is the bedrock of a smart future. Countries, cities and transport operators are adapting to rapid urbanisation and the changing way people travel within and between cities. To enable this evolution, we need to understand, anticipate and meet users’ needs in real time, through the use of data analytics and technology. This report articulates a roadmap that encourages collaboration across the public and private sector to facilitate connected, more intelligent journeys for a smarter, safer, future.”