Smart Cities

2014 is the year that things are going to get a whole lot smarter and our cities will be no exception

“Cities are rolling out networks of thousands of sensors; they know the status of every parking space, how much rubbish is in each bin, and whether the football pitch needs watering”

Over the next year the UK’s cities are going to become a lot smarter as councils and authorities begin to install sensors and cloud-based apps to monitor transport, lighting, metering and the environment, opening up a gateway of opportunities for businesses to capitalise upon.

Given the increasing demand for more economic and efficient ways of living and pressure to reduce our carbon footprint, this smart technology is already being tested overseas in cities including Barcelona, Nice and Singapore, with Britain looking set to follow suit.

How it works

Developing upon the Internet of Things, the idea of connecting physical objects to the internet and to each other, cities are expected to use this same intelligent technology to monitor certain services and systems over the web. Think sensors in car park spaces to deduce the number of people visiting at any one time or installing cloud systems in hundreds of street lights to test their efficiency.

The trend has begun to attract attention in the UK with Manchester being the first city to utilise the ‘smart cities concept’. Its main council body has recently used connected cloud-based infrastructure to place sensors in over 150 car parking spaces along its main high street to help collect useful data.

Tom Cheesewright, applied futurist and founder of the Book of the Future:

“In 2014 the big tech opportunity is in taking data and turning it into something people can interpret, navigate or act on. Or even better, making software that will act for them.


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“At the micro scale, companies like Nest are making our homes smarter, lowering our energy use while increasing our comfort. Online, consumers need better ways to discover products and services from shoes to music, flights to fetishes. Even Amazon hasn’t nailed this problem yet.

“At the macro scale cities are rolling out networks of thousands of sensors. They know in real time the status of every parking space, how much rubbish is in each bin, and whether the football pitch needs watering. Someone needs to translate this data into information and actions for every mayor and every citizen around the world.

“So look sharp: in 2014 it’s all about presentation.”

Ian Foddering, chief technology officer at Cisco:

“Context aware computing will fundamentally change how we interact with our devices. Although the idea of connecting every physical object to the internet is one of the fastest growing trends, in the future, these devices will learn about you, your day, where you are and where you’re going.

“This concept will provide businesses and governments with the leverage they need to completely redefine the user and citizen experience. With the ability to transparently access the right information in the right way, organisations with context aware services can really target customer offerings and citizens’ needs while optimising the potential engagement, revenue and costs that context-led services can bring.”

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