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Welcome to Smart Cities, the future of urban living and how Scotland’s magnificent seven are leading the way

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Imagine living in a city where the level of street lighting was graded to how busy the street actually is.

Where if someone decides to cycle to work they can access data that will tell them the best route that morning.

Where if their recycling bin gets full quicker it’s emptied sooner – and if it’s not been used so much then it isn’t automatically collected.

Welcome to smart cities. And Scotland is leading the way when it comes to this new global phenomenon.

What are smart cities?

Simply, smart cities use technology – and the data that WE actually produce using this technology – to make the lives of its citizens better, cleaner, more efficient.

So what’s wrong with the way things are?

Cities are always evolving. None more so than in the era where services must be streamlined to meet the demands of, say, shrinking public budgets.

Or where increasing numbers of us commute from outside the city into it – putting a strain on key travel arteries at peak times.

Virtually all of us carry mobile phones and use them while on the go
And then add in the fact that basically all of us now are total data junkies, because virtually ALL of us carry mobile phones.

They are like modern-day ID cards, providing a real-time high-tech 24hr handout of what we do, where we go, and why we do it.

Scotland’s 8th City – the Smart City

As stated above, Scotland is leading the way thanks to the Scottish Cities Alliance.

The alliance is a collaboration of Scotland’s seven cities – Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Dundee, Stirling, Perth and Inverness – working with the Scottish Government to make each urban area a modern place in which to invest and do business.

Smart Cities Scotland is the whole programme which the Alliance brings together – it’s “Scotland’s 8th City – the Smart City”.

It was launched in October 2015 at Strathclyde University’s Technology and Innovation Centre.

By joining forces, the Alliance aims to share its knowledge and expertise through projects such as smart cities to grow a strong future economy and create more prosperous nation.

Its goals also include Low Carbon, Hydrogen and Infrastructure.

But when it comes to Smart Cities millions of pounds are being invested.

Jonathan Brown, Programme Manager for the Alliance’s ERDF Strategic intervention: Scotland’s 8 City – the Smart City, is working with the Alliance partners to deliver a range of Smart Cities projects co-designed by the cities.

He said: “We were awarded £10m in European Regional Development Funding, which is due to be matched with £14m from the cities.

“This will allow us to transform everything from street lighting to public safety to controlling energy use to make life smarter using open data.

“To date, 10 operations have been approved, with a £7.9m grant committed, while further operations are currently being considered. It’s a very exciting prospect for our cities.”

What is Smart Cities about?

The Smart Cities Scotland programme aims to make services across the seven cities more efficient and greener, in turn making them more attractive to investors.

There are a series of ‘smart’ ambitions connected to projects the cities reckon will help make them more desirable to live and work in.

So who does what?

In Aberdeen, Perth, Stirling and Glasgow they are piloting Intelligent Street Lighting – more controllable and efficient lighting that saves energy, reduces Co2 emissions and enhances public and road safety.

In Perth, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Stirling they are looking at the deployment of smart bin technology which can improve waste and recycling collections.

Sensors in bins will alert waste management services to empty the in only when full – improving efficiency.

In Perth an innovation hub aims to develop new businesses in the digital and creative sectors linked to research and education – encouraging more entrepreneurship and further developing smart city technologies.

Sensors in bins will alert waste management services to empty the in only when full – improving efficiency
Meanwhile every city will bring in data analytics to make evidence-based decisions to improve their services.

How important is this and will it work?

The Smart Cities initiative is a key driver to transforming Scotland’s cities into 21st century places of work, so it is VERY important.

This is recognised by the Scottish Government, with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon throwing the weight of government behind it.

They want to attract investment and jobs to boost prosperity and economic growth.

Nicola Sturgeon says through the alliance’s programme of work to date more than £100m has been invested into Scotland’s cities (Photo: PA)
In the Scottish Cities Alliance’s Key Facts booklet, the First Minister said: “Through the alliance’s programme of work to date, more than £100m has been invested into our cities, to make them smarter, greener and more productive.

“This success clearly demonstrates the benefits of cities and government working in partnership.

“The alliance aims to build on that success, and I look forward to it securing further large scale investments, all of which will add to the growing international success story of Scotland’s cities.”

But how safe is all this sharing of data?

Cities will make the data gathered widely available for others to use for the development of new products and services.

They believe there can be huge benefits to be gained through this.

But is there an issue about privacy surrounding the gathering of data?

Stuart Black, Director of Development & Infrastructure, Highland Council, said: “Only non-personally sensitive, non-commercially sensitive data is published.

“For example information on traffic and public transport is used to ease congestion and guide people in real time, so there is no issue on privacy as the open data principles are followed.

“Collaboration and the sharing of knowledge and learning is at the heart of everything the Alliance does, and this has been a key foundation of the Smart Cities programme.

“By sharing knowledge and best practice, the cities are learning from each other which is invaluable.

“In Inverness, for example, we are currently involved in developing Smart Cities Projects in addition to our Open Data Project.

A full city centre main WiFi roll-out is taking place in July
“These include a Smart Mobility Project that will have a significant impact on a citizen’s ability to make better use of transport options available to them in the city area.

“Additional benefits will be reduced carbon emissions and improved services as a result of greater access to high quality data.

“Having had a successful trial period of City Centre WiFi a full city centre main WiFi roll out is taking place in July 2017 funded through the City Deal, and data from this will be fed into the Open Data Project.

“The WiFi project will also allow for future projects and add-ons to be developed i.e. sensors and connected devices.

“We are looking into route optimisation software being developed under the Smart Cities Programme with the initial goal of optimising waste collection routes with the aspiration to utilise the software throughout the council’s activities to help reduce costs and create greater efficiency for the council.”

“It’s a great programme for the city to be part of.”

So the ambition is there for all to see. And for Scotland it is leading the way in the UK, Europe and the world in allowing cities to use the data of their smart people to do smart things.

In the case of Smart Cities, watch this space.

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