London tops UK smart cities league

Juniper Research report highlights future funding challenges and calls for more testbeds to develop new solutions

London has come out top of the UK’s smart cities league, according to a new report by IT analyst company Juniper Research.

Aerial view of City of LondonIt has placed the capital at the summit of the top 10, followed by (in descending order) Edinburgh, Glasgow, Bristol, Manchester, Brighton & Hove, Liverpool, Oxford, Birmingham and Milton Keynes.

The report defines a smart city as an urban ecosystem that places an emphasis on the use of digital technology to make existing processes more efficient and open up avenues for new ones driven by data.

The scoring methodology involved a range of key performance indicators with datapoints across transport, healthcare, public safety and energy.

Its ranking for London derives largely from its performance in public safety and productivity. The former reflects its investment in smart street lighting and intelligent surveillance analytics, the latter its role as a venue for the Tech City initiative – which is aimed at accelerating the growth of digital businesses – hackathons and conferences.

But the report points out that it has a problem with inner city inequality which has a negative effect on public safety, and says this has to be addressed.

Edinburgh second

Edinburgh has benefited from learning from early mistakes in long term deal with BT, and has performed well in terms of urban transport and public safety.

Glasgow has also used the smart city concept to deal with a number of issues, such as in integrating the traffic system with emergency services and combining artificial intelligence with CCTV.

On a nationwide scale, the report says there are significant challenges ahead in funding and being able to scale up projects.

A significant proportion of the investment until now has come from the European Investment Bank and Horizon 2020 project, amounting to £23 billion over the past three years. But the UK’s withdrawal from the EU means that alternative sources will have to be found.

Juniper also advocates the creation of more testbed environments for small companies and start-ups in cities, making it possible to experiment with new technology. It says this will allow more risk-averse players, such as utilities, to work in partnership with disruptive service providers to develop new solutions and business models.

Image by Michael Gwyther-Jones, CC BY 2.0 through flickr