'Worrying Lack of Strategy' for UK Smart Cities

UK-Smart-Cities- New report provides lessons for newly elected metro mayors on how to make a smart city.

- Case studies from UK cities Bristol and Milton Keynes provide roadmap for how to integrate big and open data.

City residents are not benefitting from a clear strategy for developing cities that are 'smart' according to a new RICS Research Trust report by University of Reading academics.

The research, which examined four case studies (Bristol, Milton Keynes, Amsterdam and Taipei) also found that less than a quarter of UK cities had an smart city action plan. Of those that did, the main focus in the smart city case studies is on open data. There is also little or no evidence of the built environment real estate and construction sectors engaging directly with the smart city agenda.

Professor Tim Dixon, Chair of Sustainable Futures in the Built Environment at the University of Reading said:

"With directly elected mayors in large cities such as London, Liverpool and Bristol, and more to follow in six large city regions today, city heads need to consider how big and open data would enrich the lives of their populations.

"In particular, those newly elected city mayors need to work hard to promote increased collaboration between authorities, the built environment sector, and technology companies, to harness the power of built environment data".

Key findings from the report include:

  • Less than half (47%) of UK cities have an established definition for a smart city.
  • 22% of respondents had a smart city action plan.
  • 22% had a smart city framework.
  • 33% of respondents stated their city had a data strategy.
  • 22% stated that the strategy mentioned big data.

Prof Dixon continued:

"A key priority for cities is the need to develop clear smart city and data strategies to demonstrate the benefits for citizens and help improve incentives for companies to share their data. This also means professional bodies need to act more decisively, by championing change and promoting the uptake of data and smart city skills within the built environment sector."

Dr Jorn Van de Wetering, Lecturer in Real Estate and Planning at the University of Reading said:

"The focus in this report on the experiences of international smart city stakeholders informs innovation in the built environment sector. This research has identified many interesting international smart city projects and big and open data sharing initiatives. There are significant opportunities for built environment professionals to learn from this best practice to create value through the adoption and transfer of innovative knowledge and skills."

Dr Clare Eriksson FRICS, Director of Global Research & Policy (RICS) said:

"The built environment sector is faced with increasing opportunities and challenges in unlocking the potential offered by the fast rate of technological change. The new report provides highly pertinent and timely insights into how the development of data platforms at the city level can be better used by built environment professionals. It identifies how RICS professionals need to become more "data savvy" and identify where big and open data, alongside the smart city agenda, can help inform and improve organisational performance. Professionals and sector leaders will also need to focus on data interoperability and the necessity of a common data language and standards."

The report

Professor Tim Dixon, Dr Jorn van de Wetering, Professor Martin Sexton, Dr Shu-Ling Lu, Dr Dan Williams, Dilek Ulutas, and Duman Xueying Chen. Smart Cities, Big Data and the Built Environment: What's Required? Report available here.

The School of the Built Environment

The School of the Built Environment at the University of Reading, brings together the long-established Department of Construction Management and Engineering with a new Department of Architecture. The School of the Built Environment is an interdisciplinary centre of excellence in research and education with a strong orientation towards societal aspirations for a more sustainable urban infrastructure. Expertise in sustainability ranges across the scales from individual buildings to city-scale urban metabolism.

Coverage includes thermal and energy simulation of buildings, the impact of urban microclimate on energy demand, indoor environment quality and green infrastructure. Our work on smart cities extends from innovation diffusion to the implications of emerging digital technologies for evolving patterns of sustainable living. We work closely with other departments at the University of Reading, including Real Estate and Planning and Meteorology.

Image credit: RISC, 2017

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