UKA correspondentThursday 16 March 2017

Time to take steps towards smart places

It is time to gain an understanding of how technology can support the smarter operation of local communities – and to contribute to the big picture on challenges and priorities

Smart places are now more than an idea. Initiatives are taking place around the country aimed at using the latest digital technology to make cities and towns function more effectively.

Smart Places logoThere are large scale programmes such as the £24 million Smart Cities Scotland to develop new approaches to a range of services and data management, and the Bristol is Open programme to support research in the field.

Cities including LondonCardiff and Milton Keynes are experimenting with new, digitally driven methods to manage public transport and traffic. Glasgow is among those beginning to use sensors as part of its waste management. There are smaller scale projects such as the Isle of Wight’s creation of a ‘smart cycling’ corridor.

The drive behind all this is to make use of the flow of real time data to respond quickly to changing conditions, whether it is adjusting lights to manage traffic flows, ensure waste is collected more efficiently, improve levels of public safety or manage local environments more effectively. It can also support the long term strategic planning for urban, suburban and even rural areas.

Blank sheet

It is widely recognised as a crucial element of the future for all communities; but for many public authorities it is still a blank sheet of paper. Senior officials in cities, counties and districts know they need to understand the technology and the opportunities it provides, but so far this has been kept on hold by the demands of more immediate priorities.

They cannot delay any further. The creation of smart places is a logical extension of the digital transformation programmes in local government, and will play a crucial role in helping authorities cope with the pressures on their communities into the 2020s.

UKAuthority, in partnership with The MJ, is providing an opportunity for sector leaders to take their first steps, or to build on the knowledge they have already acquired, towards understanding the smart places agenda.

We are staging the Digital Authority Summit – Smart Places 2017, at the Museum of Science & Industry in Manchester on 31 May. It will be an interactive event with opportunities to learn about the experiences of pathfinders in the field, to develop your own capabilities in assessing and implementing smart places initiatives, and to provide input into a white paper to be published by UKAuthority in the following weeks.

Top level speakers

The speaker panel will include top level policy makers from central and local government, including: Ben Hawes, smart cities lead at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport; Eric Applewhite, programme director of GM Connect; and Geoff Snelson, director of strategy and futures at Milton Keynes Council.

There will also be breakout discussions on issues such as technology innovations, the role of data and inward investment, giving participants a chance to outline their specific challenges and contribute to the broad picture of priorities for all of government.

It provides the ideal opportunity to understand the agenda and clarify your thinking over the early steps towards building smart places in your communities. It is more than a nice idea – it is becoming a priority.

You can find more information on the event, and the chance to receive an early bird discount, from here.