Our Business Development Director, Richard Jackson talks all things “Smart”…

August 17, 2019

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Is anyone “thinking” smart? Or is everyone “thinking” smart, but nobody really knows what it means? 

Smart what?… Smart Lighting, Smart Cities, Smart Communities? 

It is fair to say that “Smart Cities” is currently one hell of a buzz word. Smart products and sensors are being offered left right and centre to change the way we work and live and they’re all being sold with the strap line “it will revolutionise the way you manage your service”. 

I’m not going to be the one to tell you that we are experts in smart cities, no one is. That’s a fact. The market is too young to have proven expertise and smart cities are so varied in their deliverables that each one will have its own unique intricacies. The key thing is to get to know the problems within the cities so that we can then shape the solutions. 

We are without doubt in the innovative stage of the “Smart Cities” market emergence. However, it seems we have products before we have a defined scope. Furthermore, we have the need for a scope but skills gaps and funding shortfalls are acting as a preventative for us to accurately define the solutions that we need. This can only lead to a stagnation in development.  

DfL are obviously coming into this market from a street lighting background, but we are clear in our understanding that street lighting with Central Management Systems won’t accelerate their innovation and market take up without a clear strategy. But what we can do is map our skill sets and knowledge of funding models to smart solutions. 

Street lighting has the potential to be the catalyst for smart solutions. However without a strategy, funding and the champions who are crafting the knowledge of how to deploy it, we are just going to be like cars with no wheels! 

We need to get “smart thinking” on how we will shape the future of cities. Look at the structure of delivery, there are many departments of the public sector that will want to use the smart infrastructure. Sensors will be the eyes and ears of the departments giving them real time information of the city. The next step is understanding thinformation provided in order to create scenarios and algorithms to implement actions, for example traffic diversions or sending out response teams to actions like gritters on cold nights. This information could also be offered to outside bodies to help them plan how they should design future provision and infrastructure or how they could develop further systems and solutions to enhance our environments.  

All the above require a special skill set. It seems that we are looking for engineering with data interrogation and programming. From there, the systems will come into their own and start to revolutionise the world that we live and work in.   

Don’t be fooled though as infrastructure is vast, it will potentially include the need to upgrade many different utility networks, transport infrastructure and service delivery models. All will come at a cost, but it is our challenge to investigate cost models and solutions on how to deliver them.  

The first action (apart from deciding on a better title than smart cities!) is to build your strategy. This is no easy task as the scope is far reaching and has many stakeholders involved. It is also an ever-changing market with each solution having different needs. Regardless, we feel that the time is now to catapult smart cities to the front of the agenda. They have the ability to reduce environmental burden, improve efficiency in our daily lives and promote economic growth throughout the UK and beyond.  

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