The journey of a smart tech enthusiast
I have spent what seems like a lifetime in smart technology; from joining the European launch team for Blackberry back in 2000 to supporting O2’s move from being a cellular company (only) to a digital transformational leader in the market, smart technology has been imprinted into my DNA. It is a very exciting space to work in, mainly because people want to discuss the possibilities technology can offer. Remember back when there was an idea to get machines to talk to each other without human interaction? I am still convinced it was the Terminator film that slowed down the whole IoT world, but that is so different today.
I remember when we launched Blackberry with O2 back in 2001. The passion people had for a product that we as a team were so convinced would change the world was inspiring to be around, and it certainly did change the world! It opened the possibility of thinking differently. No longer did someone need to be tied to a laptop or desktop to be able to connect to email. We could reach out to customer requests quicker and not have to deal with a ton of email as we started the day. That same idea has grown, as well as the priorities and dependency, we still require email on the go but we have evolved to need more.
During some time off last year, I took a good look at the market to understand where I could best use my skills. With a strong history of delivering Smart Tech in the telecom’s world, I really had to stay strong and find a role that suited my overarching ambition to make the world a smart place through technology. So, I joined the executive team at Living Map. It is a company that’s all about Smart technology and digital transformation, giving users the ability to use one of the oldest tools humans have, a Map. Having a digital, interactive, and dynamic Mapping platform to get from A to B is what Smart tech is all about. But the ability to use the captured data to make informed decision in a Smart Place got me excited. I’m sure you won’t mind me pitching Living Map a few times through this blog series.
One thing we can all agree on is that smart technology has changed our lives, and I believe for the better. We are so much more informed and connected with each other. If you have an opinion, you can share it with so many more people than before. We can now support our friends and families whenever and wherever we /they are, being connected is great.
But we need to do more. Let's face some hard facts: we as a global community have not really looked after our planet as well as we should. I am certainly not going to get into a political debate, but let's say we need to do more, I strongly believe it will be technology that will save our future existence. So, yes, it's all about smart technologies, keeping all connected and informed and developing smart places is a huge step in the right direction to support our ambitions to be more sustainable.
I have broken the "Smart Places" subject into four topics.
Please enjoy this Blog series and if you would like them all together drop me a line. Hopefully, you will see it has been written with passion and understanding. Please feel free to drop me a line with your views.
Navigating the future: The rise of smart places in our cities and towns
Smart Cities and Towns
The idea of a smart city has been around for some time now, and most cities over the last 60 years have evolved into something more accessible and a lot easier to use. We have also done our bit to make them cleaner and safer. However, we still need to do so much more. With technology the way it is today, we should continue to embrace access for all. I am sure we all agree that we have come on leaps and bounds from the past when getting into a city was either a long-delayed car drive or catching a train or bus that was generally delayed or just late. The only way you could work in a city was to stay there for a week or move your whole life closer to the office. There wasn’t a work-from-home policy or the connectivity to be able to work from anywhere.
How that has changed! But as people and users of this huge metropolis, we demand and should demand more. We want to be able to be connected all the time; we want to be safe and secure day and night; we want our fellow citizens to get the help they may need whenever they need it; and we want it to be sustainable and clean. All of which is a tall ask when thinking about moving millions of people around a relatively small space daily.
So, in a nutshell, these are eight things I believe make a city smart:
- Integrated infrastructure based around technology: the need to understand the data.
- Citizen engagement and focus: look after the citizens requirements and ensure they are safe and easy to use.
- Accessibility for all: If you are blind, deaf, or in a wheelchair, accessibility for all and a way of finding your way easily.
- Public safety: being able to move around a city safely.
- Wayfinding: Be able to find your way clearly with a digital map.
- Connected: Both people and machines are talking to each other.
- Integrated buildings: having a building that knows who you are and where you are going.
- Transportation: easy to use and find.
The big shock, however, is that it's all about data! Having the data at our fingertips is critical to deploying value to a large citizen base, and being about to update them at any time to make changes is a necessity.
So, with that said, how do you get started? I’m sure you have had loads of great conversations about what a smart city needs to look like and what it should deliver. The problem is getting started and showing fast results. Gone are the days where a local council or a large corporate company will invest a tonne of cash in building an infrastructure programme that takes years to deliver and recognise a compelling ROI. I have always said it’s like building a house:
The Smart City infrastructure – build a house…
Once you have deployed the house, you can start to deploy many different applications to provide multiple data feeds.
I would say most areas now have good, if not great, connectivity. 5G is here and deploying very well across urban areas, and fibre has become a commodity. The value for connectivity providers has become so much bigger than just delivering a line. It needs to be cost-effective and support many different services. Like most citizens of a city, I don’t care who provides it if it works.
A company that has done this incredibly well is BAI Communications. You can see a great example in their Sunderland case study.
At Living Map, we are about the wayfinding element of any smart city. Having the building blocks in place to be able to deploy a digital or interactive Living Map is important so users can access it anywhere and at any time, but a city can also use the data to make smart decisions. The Living Map platform gives all the user data to the administrator; we do not keep this for ourselves like other mapping tools. See the case study.
Next edition, I will tackle the subject of smart buildings, i.e., museums, airports, shopping malls, universities, etc.