New report calls for people, not tech, to be at the heart of smart city planning

12 March 2019

Failing to put people above technology in the planning of smart cities and transport networks could lead to divided and socially exclusive communities across the UK, says a new report published today (Tuesday 12 March 2019).

Launched by international Law firm Gowling WLG, in collaboration with PwC, London Transport Museum, and Thales, Rethinking Smart Futures outlines a new vision for smart cities that are socially inclusive and focused on people, enabled by transport and powered by technology and data.

The report identifies the challenges to achieving this vision and calls for central and local government, the public sector, and private industries to join forces to take forward key recommendations. These include:

  • Defining a shared vision for the UK's smart future and re-defining measures for success;
  • Creating trusted and regulated processes and networks for data sharing that are resilient to cyber-attacks;
  • Establishing a new, regulated national transport framework for public-private procurement and investment in innovation and technology; and
  • Collaboration between central and local government with the private sector to invest in and fund local schemes that support 'blue-sky' innovation.

Rethinking Smart Futures draws on five expert roundtable discussions that took place with industry leaders, policy makers and academics throughout 2018 as part of Interchange, London Transport Museum's thought-leadership programme. In collaboration with PwC and Thales, Interchange provokes debate and discussion about the future of transport.

Gowling WLG Partner Giles Clifford said: 'New technologies have an immense power to change the way in which we all travel, work and live, but if this is seen solely as a commercial opportunity we will miss the really exciting possibilities to transform lives for the better. This report does not simply list what could be done but gives some real pointers as to how genuine change can be delivered. Adaptions to the legal framework, which is an essential part of the landscape in both fashioning and reflecting our societal response to changes of this magnitude, will need to be part of this to enable a genuinely imaginative and holistic approach to the opportunities."

Grant Klein, Transport leader at PwC said: 'We found three key hurdles in developing smart cities: too much choice from an array of innovations; too many cooks with competing interests which can lead to inaction or disconnects; and when it comes to strategies, one size definitely doesn't fit all cities. Our report analyses how to navigate and overcome these roadblocks. There are elements of the 'smart city' emerging across the UK, tackling issues such as transport, health and data in cities including Leeds, Birmingham and Manchester. But progress overall is still piecemeal across the UK. If we are to encourage economic growth and meet the evolving needs of our citizens, we need to step things up a gear and put transport at the heart of every decision.'

Sam Mullins, Director, London Transport Museum said: 'Often, the pursuit of new technologies has been the driving force behind our move toward a smarter future. But if the advancement of technology remains an end in itself and is not motivated by meeting the needs of people, then we risk creating smart cities and transport networks which result in communities across the UK becoming divided and socially exclusive. Bringing together perspectives from industry leaders, policy makers and academics, our latest Interchange report looks towards a smart future for the UK that is focused on people.'

Mark Garrity, Director, Strategy Sales & Marketing for Thales Ground Transportation Systems said: 'Transport is the bedrock of a Smart Future. Countries, cities, and transport operators are adapting to rapid urbanisation and the changing way people travel within and between cities. To enable this evolution, we need to understand, anticipate, and meet users' needs in real time, through the use of data analytics and technology. This report articulates a roadmap that encourages collaboration across the public and private sector to facilitate connected, more intelligent journeys for a smarter, safer, future.'

Download the full report

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Ben Griffiths Senior Corporate Communications Executive Birmingham