Smart What? 96 Percent Of Us Know Nothing About Smart Cities

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Arqiva report reveals ignorance of smart city programs in the UK

The connected world is meant to be making us all feel more involved with the world around us using technology, but it seems that this message isn’t quite getting through yet in the UK.

In spite of several high profile schemes to make Britain’s cities more intelligent and connected, a shocking 96 percent of us are unaware of any such “smart city” programs here.

That’s according to a survey from Arqiva and YouGov, which found many the efforts of many councils are going unrecognised by residents.

‘Lack of understanding’

smart cities initiative phone“There seems to be a dire lack of understanding of the progress and impact being made by the UK’s cities – resulting in almost half of our citizens (48 percent) feeling that smart cities across the UK are still more than five years away,” said Sean Weir, business development director of smart metering and M2M at Arqiva.

“Without the proper support these initiatives will die on their feet, so far greater communication is needed on what exactly is happening and why people should care.”

The survey also revealed that many of us are unsure about the benefits of smart cities, with nearly one in four (23 percent) saying they were unclear on any one main benefit such projects could bring.

A lot of the issues that smart cities could help with also proved a confusing point, especially when asked where councils should be spending their money.

While traffic congestion was most commonly identified both as a problem (57 percent) and smart technology spending priority (33 percent) – particularly for respondents in the South (64 percent & 39 percent), the Midlands (64 percent & 41 percent) and London (64 percent & 32 percent), smart technology spending on the second most identified issue – parking (43 percent) – drew priority support from less than one in ten British adults (7 percent).

And overall, less than a third (29 percent) of those asked thought that the greatest benefit of a ‘connected city’ would be a better living environment for residents,.

“Many smart city initiatives are only small scale pilot or lab-based experiments and it appears that many cities lack the ability to roll-out large scale smart projects that would truly make a difference to local citizens,” added Weir.

The only engaged section of society was the young people, where over a third (37 percent) of 18-24 year olds claimed to be ‘passionate’ about their nearest city becoming smart. 33 percent of this group also said they would consider moving to another city if it was smarter than their own.

“Councils desperately need to find a way to harness the enthusiasm of the tech-savvy younger generation,” concluded Weir. “If done correctly, they create powerful advocates to spread awareness – if done wrong, and they risk their city’s economic future.”

The reach of the Internet of Things is set to explode over the next few years, with estimates from Gartner predicting that 4.9 billion connected ‘things’ will be in use in 2015, up 30 percent from 2014, and will reach 25 billion by 2020.

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