London's digital future
A smart approach to becoming a smart city
- Series: DIGITAL LIFE
New York, Singapore and Seoul are all using big data to improve the way their city works. London's approach is different.
As global engineering firm Arup says, “cities are real-time systems, but rarely run as such”. Data and data modelling are becoming increasingly important for urban administrations. So in New York, they have appointed a Chief Digital Officer, Rachel Sterne, who is tasked with strengthening the City’s digital media presence and streamlining internal digital communications.
New projects include “The Daily Pothole,” a Tumblr that tracks the Department of Transports progress in filling potholes and the use of QR code technology on building permits. Singapore has taken on its water demand with smart data and Seoul has just invested 850 billion won (half a billion Euros) for the construction of smart infrastructure, smart services, and enhancement of smartness (whatever that is) by 2015.
Meanwhile Masdar, a new development in Abu Dhabi that will eventually be home to 40,000 people, is being built on a gargantuan raised platform to make maintenance and the installation of new gear much easier. Underneath the platform is the smart infrastructure, including water pipes with sensors and a fibre-optic network.
London, as an old city, has made some big jumps forward. If you asked a Londoner what the biggest changes were in the last fifteen years, they’d say Oyster Cards, the Congestion Charge and the Boris Bikes (above) - all controlled my smart technology.
Transport for London have been most dynamic. The data they collate from these sources is open source and accessible - it can be hacked as well as used for official purposes.
And that seems to be the London approach - letting others do it. The city knows that the best way to come up with new initiatives is opening up this data to help other develop creative responses.
One step towards this, the London Datastore has been created by the Greater London Authority to “stimulate innovation and engagement around civic services”. It enables others to use the data, and build applications and services upon it, for free. Since then, the national government has followed suit in releasing much of their data.
And the results are already clear. There are apps that help you find the nearest tube, play games, explore Roman London or fix their street. All of these are independent applications using public sector data.
So London’s not smart enough to sit on a raised platform, but it’s clever enough to crowdsource.