Smart city investment report: UK awareness remains low

smart city investment report
© iStock/John-Kelly

New research has found 68 per cent of UK respondents do not know what a smart city is or how the concept can benefit urban residents.

The study, conducted by the country’s leading bollard, barrier and road blocker provider ATG Access, aimed to gauge levels of awareness and support on the part of the UK public for investment in smart city and smart infrastructure options. While overall awareness among UK residents of smart cities, defined in the smart city investment report as “a city which incorporates technology, such as artificial intelligence (AI), GPS tracking and the Internet of Things (IoT), into its physical infrastructure in order to improve public services, make its citizens safer and improve overall quality of life”, was low, the research found increasing levels of support for UK tax funding for various aspects of smart city implementation.

Investment in smart city solutions is on the rise globally, with spending projected to hit $135 billion (€119.32 billion) by 2021; however, uptake of intelligent traffic solutions in the UK has lagged behind other developed nations, with municipal authorities frequently citing the cost of implementation as a deciding factor. ATG’s smart city investment report found that the UK residents it surveyed supported greater investment of tax revenues in smart infrastructure, with 57 per cent in favour of the taxes they paid going towards smart traffic lights and 44 per cent supporting smart signs giving real time updates on traffic issues. Of the 32 per cent of respondents who said they were aware of the concept of smart cities, 74 per cent said wider deployment of smart city technology would be beneficial to addressing issues such as congestion or pollution.

Gavin Hepburn, managing director at ATG Access, said: “As our cities become more and more congested, it’s becoming increasingly clear that our current urban infrastructure is no longer fit for purpose and smart cities are a clear step forward. However, despite the obvious benefits of the concept, there are still some issues to be circumnavigated if the UK smart city is to make the transition from far-flung concept to reality – with funding uncertainties and costs a key issue. But what is apparent from our research is that people clearly see the benefits of a smart city. The solutions are available and in the most part, proven and tested, so it is time we begin to look for ways to help fund and support these types of projects that facilitate a safer and smarter future for our British cities.”

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