Smarter Cities: Delivery

On 2nd November, Future of London brought together practitioners to share experience on how to get smart cities projects up and running in the third of our Smarter Cities workshops.

Transport for London has long been a leader in adopting new technology – the congestion charge and Oyster ticketing system are exemplars of using technology to address large-scale problems. Alongside these large-scale initiatives, TfL also encourages innovation at the local scale through its Future Streets programme.

Stella Lam, TfLTfL’s Gareth Sumner, Foresight Manager – Transport Innovation Directorate, and Stella Lam, Project Manager – City Planning, explained that Future Streets allows for new ideas to be tested incrementally. A £1.15m fund has so far supported 14 projects based around Healthy Streets approaches for trial periods of 6-12 months.

Schemes included an energy-generating ‘smart street’; a centralised ordering system for businesses to cut down on deliveries; ‘green wave’ traffic signals for cyclists; and research into how design and technology can make roadworks along footways safer for visually impaired people.

Each project included a monitoring aspect, such as public and practitioner surveys. Lam’s advice for those thinking about trialling new technologies was to look for low-cost trials to gain experience; invite ideas from professionals and the public; make sure learning is shared; and celebrate successes to make more people are aware of them.

TfL also runs an innovation portal to solicit innovative ideas, and explain some of the challenges the organisation faces to help ensure submissions are relevant.

The promise of Smart Cities projects rests on their ability to gain meaningful insights from data, and working with large amounts of data brings technical, ethical and legal challenges. Lewis Silkin partner Dr Nathalie Moreno shared insight into the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which comes into force in April 2018 and will strengthen data protection laws (with heavy fines for non-compliance).

The GDPR will make consent the basis of any data collection or processing, and any Smart Cities project should account for this from the outset – what Dr Moreno called ‘privacy by design’. As organisations start collecting more data from individuals to inform service delivery, Dr Moreno suggested that Data Protection Impact Assessments will become a standard element of any project proposal.

In recognition of the increasing role of Smart tech in London’s economy, culture and administration, in August 2017, the mayor appointed London’s first Chief Digital Officer, with a remit to lead on innovation in public service delivery and encourage collaboration between the GLA and boroughs.

GLA The Future of SmartDr Stephen Lorimer, Smart London Policy and Delivery Officer outlined the next steps for the GLA, which is updating the 2013 Smart London Plan. This updated document will be delivery-focused and look to tie together elements contained in other GLA strategies. Issues under consideration include how to embed Smart principles in new development; how to promote long-term thinking in technology projects; and how to encourage innovation.

A key element of the new Smart London Plan will be to promote joint working and knowledge-sharing between boroughs. The GLA convenes a Smart London Board and London Borough Data Partnership, and is scoping a London Office of Technology & Innovation to promote collaboration around practical issues.

The presentations were followed by a workshop, where attendees discussed issues around implementing Smart City approaches. Key points raised included:

  • There is a culture and language gap between the public sector and the tech sector that must be overcome if the two are to work together effectively; for example, this can impact on knowing the right questions to ask of project partners.
  • While similar to traditional regeneration projects in many ways, Smart projects require practitioners to have a strong understanding of futureproofing and legacy, security, interconnectivity between projects and infrastructure requirements.
  • Cross-sector forums – or even full joint ventures – would help move beyond a customer-client relationship towards one where responsibility and risk are shared.
  • Clearer guidance is needed on responsibilities for infrastructure provision: who should bear the cost and what incentives are available?
  • There is a need to address ‘notspots’ with poor internet connectivity; should broadband be considered a statutory utility, alongside water and power?
  • Greater consideration should be given to a project’s end users and how they will experience/interact with it.
  • Local authorities should seek tech partners who are able to demonstrate a long-term commitment in line with authorities’ stewardship role.

Speaking at this event were:

  • Dr Stephen Lorimer, Smart London Policy and Delivery Officer, GLA
  • Dr Nathalie Moreno, Partner, Lewis Silkin
  • Gareth Sumner, Foresight Manager – Transport Innovation Directorate, TfL
  • Stella Lam, Project Manager – City Planning, TfL

The Smarter Cities programme is supported by:

Useful links:

Presentations from the event are below: