Building a Smarter London

The capital city seeks to advance with the help of technology

22 July 2015

London is packed with history, but it is also moving toward the future. Although it’s no stranger to technology, boasting the world’s first rapid transit system and of course its iconic clock tower, it has only begun planning for how it can become a smart city.

At the IEEE International Communications Conference, held there last month, Paulina Chan, an ambassador of London’s Imperial College and CEO of Global Mutual Consortium, in Hong Kong, led a panel discussion on smart city and sustainable ecology, which covered planning and building digital portals, deployment of commercial technologies and services in cities, and cross-cultural partnerships. During her talk she covered some of the ways the city is looking to progress using technology.

For example, the city is planning to improve its transportation system and infrastructure. The city’s mayor, Boris Johnson, appointed the Smart London Board to research ways that technology could help improve the quality of life for locals, and help them live and work more efficiently.

Some of these steps include moving toward digital money to pay for transportation, and capturing data to measure the number of people who commute each day and the local air quality. This information will be available for the public to access and can help the local government make changes based on the information gathered. The board consists of academics, business leaders, and entrepreneurs to oversee the developments and is chaired by David Gann, vice president of Imperial College.

“London has the talent, the creativity, the infrastructure, and the political will to become a modern-day smart city,” Chan said.

Earlier this year, the mayor’s office and the Institute for Sustainability, a London-based organization that promotes collaboration, ran the Smart London Innovation Challenge for small businesses and entrepreneurs to develop apps that would help meet the demands of London’s growing population. In 2013, 8.3 million people lived in the capital. That number is expected to rise to 10 million by 2030. That means more health care, transportation, jobs, homes, and energy will be needed, and the government is looking for technological solutions to help solve these concerns.

Competition organizers were looking for projects that would help people digitally connect with local resources, businesses, visitors, and residents. Winners will get the chance to pitch their ideas to five districts in London currently in redevelopment, including Imperial West and Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, to serve as testing grounds for their applications over the coming years.

According to Chan, London has what it takes to become a 21st century smart city. “To do so requires creativity, innovation, talent, and an open mind,” Chan says. “My time working in London tells me the city already has an abundance of these qualities.”

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