Cities in UK skipping “Smart City” programs


Cities in UK skipping “Smart City” programs

Research published in ITS International has noted that cities in the UK simply don’t see “Smart City” programs as a priority. They lack budget, leadership and capability. Here is what the article said in part:

New research, commissioned by street lighting experts Lucy Zodion and conducted by independent research agency DJS Research, has highlighted the risk that many local governments are lacking the budget, leadership and capability to progress smart initiatives and connected technology in cities across the UK.

The research, involving 187 councils from across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, reveals that smart cities are not deemed a strategic priority for the majority of councils in the UK and identifies barriers to delivery that are stifling progress in many local authorities. Without a clear roadmap to delivery from Government and a coherent, cost-effective approach, the UK risks lagging behind other countries with an inconsistent and delayed roll-out of smart cities.

Five major barriers to delivery were highlighted during the research: a lack of funding, a lack of internal prioritisation, a lack of evidence, insufficient collaboration, and a general lack of confidence amongst council leaders. A model of momentum, identifying six key stages on a council’s road to smart cities, also maps out the lag between those leading in smart cities and those yet to engage.

It seems to me that the issue is simple. “Smart City” is a complex, expensive program and city councils (Local Authorities in the UK) don’t understand it. Or maybe they do understand but don’t see that the investment will make life easier for Britons or return dividends, like say a good parking enforcement program or a review of their tax structure might do.

Politicians in large cities are only too quick to jump on the next bandwagon (Green, Apps for everything, light rail, Smart City) to garner favor with voters and burnish their high tech bonafides. Often they have no clue what they are advocating. “It contains “tech,” it’s new, it must be good.”

Seems to me like the city mums and dads in the UK are taking a longer view of this program before jumping in.  Maybe reducing crime, replacing infrastructure, providing solid education is on the top of their lists.

Perhaps Sydney, London, Los Angeles, and even Columbus Ohio have the resources to bring huge dollar amounts and intellectual capital to bear on this topic. Smaller cities may not.

I’m certain companies with vested interests like Cubic, Xerox, IBM, Google, Siemens, and the rest will be knocking on their doors. That’s a lot of heavy hitters to hold off. Time will tell.


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John Van Horn

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