Last month, the SmartCitiesUK 2019 conference took place which has engaged with more than 1,000 regional leads since its beginning in 2015. The conference aims to share knowledge, guidance, resources and best practices among UK cities and towns who seek to better meet their settlement’s transport, economic and social needs.
In particular, the conference focuses on tackling and solving the challenges of smart cities within the UK, and also kick-starting development programmes. This naturally resulted in the introduction of a series of international awards which aim to encourage best-practices for smart cities and towns. This was established in 2016 and continues to this day.
Winners of these awards must demonstrate impact, as well as accelerating economic and social outcomes, within a city, town or even an entire regional area. Over the duration of just three years, the conference has noted rapid development in this area and has gifted more than twenty awards to organisations that have proved their benefit to smart city development.
In 2019, Southwark Council were awarded for their work on digital infrastructure. This was designed to provide residents and businesses with digital tools. The main goal was to move the entire community towards a “digital by default” future, where services and tools integrated seamlessly within the borough. These tools aimed to improve both work life and home life for citizens, as well as to work with other structures in place across the wider city of London.
In addition to Southwark Council, local authorities in Bristol were also commended for their work with smart homes in the city. This involved the development of more than 150 homes to switch to the use of smart appliances and tools, which ultimately aimed to improve quality of life. These new “smart connected homes” are theorised to increase energy savings while also benefiting residents and reducing wasted resources.
Finally, the power of virtual reality (VR) was acknowledged in an award won by Tricuro – a local authority trading company working towards reducing the impacts of dementia. They have been developing a virtual beach project using VR to engage with patients and reduce their physical impairments in targeted areas. Richard Dolan, Innovation and Technology Manager commented:
“The power of VR to connect people to human experiences is vast, and our project has been about just that – the use of VR and immersive technology as a tool to create meaningful human experiences that make a difference to people’s lives, that enable us to better understand the person, their life, and how we can connect that person to something that gives them an experience that is truly person centred.” This notion was supported by the judges of SmartCitiesUK 2019 who, collectively, aim to support innovation and development in all forms for the benefits of towns and cities. They concluded that they look forward to next year’s entries as well as another year of smart city development for the UK itself.