Tom Sime: Smart cities offer Scotland a win-win

Smart technologies are revolutionising the way cities address the challenges and opportunities of urban growth – and Scotland’s largest population masses stand to benefit hugely.

The Smart Cities programme aims to make our urban centres more attractive to potential investors and residents, says Sime. Picture: John Young

Such technologies are helping our cities to allocate resources more efficiently and improve how data and information are managed and shared across systems. Disruptive thinking is providing tools to utilise existing assets more effectively.

With that in mind, it was hugely encouraging to see a project to improve data and digital technology across Scotland recently receiving a further £15 million in European funding, adding to an existing £45m pot. The Scottish Cities Alliance Smart Cities programme aims to make our urban centres more attractive to potential investors and residents. It offers a real win-win where a higher quality of life is attained while fresh economic growth is achieved.

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The latest funding is to be used to improve technology and efficiency in infrastructure such as street lighting, waste and water management, and public transport. The alliance has good form in this area, helping to boost the Scottish economy by £125m since 2011. It’s hoped that the new funding can enable local authorities to strengthen their already collaborative approach and bring more cutting edge technologies like open data and intelligent street lighting, improving visibility and safety.

Sustainability is also one of the key factors behind the funding allocation, with the aim to increase low-carbon energy solutions. Environmental factors are an increasingly important factor for investors looking at new locations, with smart technology offering the ability to significantly cut emissions, reduce water consumption, and decrease average commute times.

These developments are noticeably increasing the use of telecom networks, with the advent of 5G expected to lend further momentum in coming years. Indeed, the smart city environment’s heightened connectivity offers the use of mobile apps that provide real-time information on traffic delays, intelligent GIS systems that ensure the shortest route to a destination, and systems that determine energy pricing according to demand peaks.

With its new funding, Scotland is choosing to take its seven cities on the smart journey together by adopting a collaborative approach that shares learning and best practice in order to accelerate and transform services.

Over the next few years, the alliance’s focus will be on heightening mobile working and developing smart infrastructure projects that implement an Internet of Things approach to connect devices and improve data-driven decision-making.

The possibilities are endless – as is the potential for Scotland to steal a march in this exciting growth area. Now that’s really smart.

- Tom Sime, MD of Exchange Communications