Discussion Forum

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Forum Questions

  • What is the Internet of Things?

    The Internet of Things (IoT) is a phrase that’s commonly used in the discussion of smart cities. Put simply, the IoT involves connecting everyday objects to the internet, allowing these objects to ‘talk’ to each other. A smart fridge, for example, could connect to an app that could notify you when you run out of milk. Many devices are already connected to the IoT and analyst firm Gartner predict there will be over 26 million IoT devices by 2030. The IoT doesn’t just include domestic devices either; IoT solutions such as smart bins (which signal when they’re full) are crucial elements of smart cities. All together, these devices create a connected Internet of Things network.

  • What are the stages of smart city enlightenment?

    Lucy Zodion's smart cities report identifed six stages that councils go through on their journey to becoming a smart city. At the first stage, councils are in the dark, with minimal awareness of the concept of smart cities. At stage 2, 'ears pricked' councils are aware of the concept, but have no involvement in smart projects. Once they reach stage three, councils have their 'eyes and ears open' to smart cities, with partial involvement. Councils at stage four have 'eyes, ears and minds alert', and are beginning to implement smart city projects. 'The enlightened' councils at stage five have a number of smart city projects running and have a good strategy. Finally, those who reach stage six - 'the connected city' are delivering smart solutions and engaging citizens at every stage, from design to delivery. For more information, head to the resources page and download Lucy Zodion's report.

  • Will Brexit affect UK smart cities?

    The EU offers a number of grants, loans and equity investments to European cities for the development of smart city solutions. British cities have previously benefitted from EU funding; in 2015, Manchester City Council won a share of a €24 million EU funding pot to demonstrate innovative green technologies. As a result, Britain’s decision to leave the EU has left many questioning whether the EU will continue to support smart cities in the UK. Although the answer to this question won’t be certain until the UK has actually left the EU, it seems promising that The University of Surrey recently received a €762,000 EU grant for smart cities research.

  • Will self-driving cars make smart city roads safer?

    With a number of companies are currently trialling self-driving cars, questions around their safety in comparison to manual cars have naturally arisen. Self-driving cars typically have a number of safety features, including 360-degree vision, self-braking and lane-departure alerts. These work alongside multiple sensors and laser illuminating detection and ranging (LIDAR) radar, which enables the car’s software to determine exactly how close it is to other cars. As the majority of road accidents are caused by human error, driverless cars may indeed make city roads safer. Google’s self-driving cars have only been involved in 19 minor incidents in over 1.8million miles of driving, and none of these accidents have been caused by the car itself, so there is good evidence to support their security. However, like any connected device, there are concerns that driverless car software could be hacked, compromising the safety of passengers. As self-driving cars become more common and move out of the trial stages, their benefits and risks will become more apparent.

  • How could our aging population benefit from smart cities?

    There are a number of ways that elderly people could benefit from smarter cities. The technology involved in smart cities could extend the time that older people can live independently, by creating a digital support network. Trials are already underway in Norway, where healthcare tech company Abilia has is testing a system which involves installing a tablet device in the homes of vulnerable elderly people. The tablet is Skype-enabled, allowing carers to check in with patients periodically, and it gives spoken reminders to prompt patients to take medicine. It also connects wirelessly to other household devices, and set off an alarm if, for example, the stove is left on for more than 15 minutes. Systems like this are being tested around the world, and if successful they could allow older people to live autonomously for longer than they would have otherwise.

  • Are there smart cities in developing countries?

    Urbanisation is a global concern, and so smart cities are not limited to first-world countries. The Indian Government are investing heavily in a Smart City Mission, which aims to develop 100 Indian cities into smart cities between 2015-2020. There are also smart cities in Africa, such as Nairobi (in Kenya) and Accra (in Ghana). As these countries are evolving, they have unique problems that create both opportunities and obstacles for smart city development. While smart technology could greatly improve public resources in many developing countries, there is often a lack of resources to allocate to this technology.

  • How can smart street lighting improve residents' security?

    Street lamps are such an integral piece of our street furniture, it can be easy to forget that they play a role in keeping us safe. There are many ways that street lights could become smarter to keep city dwellers safer. Smart streetlights are increasingly being fitted with motion sensors which turn the lamp on when motion is detected near the pole, conserving energy when nobody is around. This means that rather than turning lights off completely in certain areas, leaving residents vulnerable along dark streets, councils can ensure lights are on only when necessary. Noise detectors can also be fitted to streetlights; when combined with real-time CCTV feeds they can alert local authorities to disturbances and allow them to respond more quickly.

  • Why is security critical to the IoT?

    With the number of active wireless connected devices expected to exceed 40 billion by 2020, the IoT is growing rapidly. As devices are added to the IoT, however, they present fresh opportunities for hackers to steal our data. This has understandably caused concern among security experts and device owners alike; mobile security specialist Bullguard found that 78% of consumers are concerned about IoT security risks like hackers, malware and viruses. Considering the potential consequences of hacking – hackers could take control of Internet-connected cars, or access baby monitor feeds, for example – security is a crucial factor of the IoT.

  • Where will funding for smart cities come from?

    The technology that is integral to smart cities isn’t cheap, and who should fund smart cities is a contentious issue. With government budgets constantly decreasing, politicians need to make their constituents see the benefits of spending money in smart technology before they can invest – although there is good evidence that this technology will make cities more economical. Therefore, the majority of smart city funding is currently coming from private investors – technology companies are keen to invest in smart cities as they see the potential for economic, social and environmental growth in this area. Companies like Ericsson and Cisco have put a huge amount of money into India’s smart cities project, for example.

  • What would the role of a lamppost be as a recharging station for vehicle batteries?

    Within a Smart City, existing infrastructure such as the lampposts could become multi-functional stations that in addition to providing traditional lighting could also serve as data stations with sensors. Lampposts could monitor parking spaces and communicate information about these, or recharge the batteries of an electric car - the possibilities are wide! Street lights in residential areas could be controlled according to the density or speed of vehicles and light can be dimmed for example if few cars drive at night. This saves energy overheads, and provides the community with more control.

  • What is the role of the citizen within the Smart City?

    Citizens will play a pivotal role within the development of the Smart City. Councils in England, Scotland and Wales are already working hard to engage and include citizens as well as businesses, community groups and schools at every step of the way, from closed technology trials through to open feedback groups. The outcome of a Smart City will benefit each of these groups and each group is critical in providing tangible evidence to monetise use cases.

  • Is a Smart City only focused on new technologies?

    The focus of a Smart City is towards tackling the heart of the cities’ problem and improving life for the entire demographic. Technologies are key enablers for these outcomes but new technologies and new infrastructures are not essential for delivering a Smart City. For example, the UK has an existing infrastructure with a wealth of street furniture in situ that can be evolved into something so much more, for example; a multi functional station that connects people with WiFi / LiFi? A method for paying for a car parking space? A power source to recharge electric vehicles - the list is endless.

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