Smart City Initiatives

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London Smart City: Tackling Challenges With 20 Initiatives

London has the ambitious goal to be the smartest city in the world by 2020. To achieve this, the mayor of London is encouraging participation from both the public and private sectors. The city is launching over 20 initiatives that will tackle urban challenges and change the face of London. Projects like Connected London bring 5G connectivity to all areas, while the mayor’s smart city initiatives will provide free wi-fi in public spaces. 

In this article you'll learn about:

What Is London Smart City?

London has launched a set of initiatives called Smarter London Together. These initiatives aim to make London “the smartest city in the world”. The project promotes user-centered design, data sharing, connectivity, digital leadership and skills, and collaboration between public services and the private sector.  

London is the Tech Capital of Europe

The growing population of London, estimated to reach 10 million by 2030,  is putting pressure on transport, energy, healthcare, and pollution management. To address this issue, the mayor of the office of London is turning to smart city solutions and is developing projects in collaboration with startups, academics, and residents. 

For example, the smart London board, established in 2013, creates policies to encourage innovative technology solutions to the challenges faced by the city. Intel, for instance, is contributing to technology research in London, through the Connected Cities Institute. This institute supports the research of user-centered technology solutions, such as London Living Labs. As part of the Living Labs project, scientists are performing air, water quality, and ecology tests in Hyde Park. This project uses a network of wireless sensors.

Another initiative is the Transport for London platform, which helps people plan their journey using multi-modal smart mobility. Via this platform users can, for example, hire bikes or take a trip on the new cable car. They can also pay for their transportation more easily, via the website. Customers can top up their passcards, called the Oyster card, using their debit or credit card. 

Learn more about smart city initiatives in our guide: Amsterdam’s Smart City: Ambitious Goals, Collaborative Innovation

How Is London Becoming a Smart City? 

The smart London plan is founded on five key aims: 

User-Centered Design

London’s service designs include features for hearing, visual and motor-impaired individuals, creating a climate for digital inclusion. The city wants all Londoners to have access to public services. New training programs will focus on teaching digital skills to unemployed and people over fifty. London is also launching platforms, such as the civic innovation challenge, to encourage the digital engagement of citizens and communities. 

Open and Secure City Data

London is increasing data-sharing through the London Office of Data Analytics program, making public data as open as possible. The city will address public service and urban challenges like air pollution, by implementing data collaboration projects between public, academic, and tech sectors. For example, the city is collaborating with the Alan Turing Institute to improve air pollution analysis, using machine learning to synchronize existing and new data sources. 

Regarding digital security, the mayor has launched the London Digital Security Center, a joint initiative between the mayor of London, the Metropolitan police service and the city of London police. The police service will provide information security advice and protection to small and medium-sized businesses. 

Connectivity and Smarter Streets

London is planning to bring 5G connectivity to the entire city via the Connected London program. This will require full optic fiber coverage for all new developments while improving “not spots”, places with limited connectivity. Residents and visitors expect access to public wi-fi, thus the mayor has launched an initiative that provides open access to wi-fi in public buildings and on the streets. 

The city will use smart city infrastructure, updating London’s iconic lamp posts with smart units, equipped with air quality sensors, public wifi, cameras, and electric vehicle charge points. 

Digital Capability Improvement for Citizens

The city has created programs like RE:CODE, and Skills for Londoners Strategy a program that promotes technological and digital skills for citizens over 16 years old. The aim of the program is to increase social mobility and to create work opportunities in the new digital economy. The adult education programs will focus on the needs of businesses and the city. 

Smart City Collaboration

The mayor will establish a London Office for Technology and Innovation (LOTI) which will support collaboration and technology sharing between public offices. Public offices will partner with the tech private sector to develop a common standard for digital collaboration. Public services will use this standard when sharing data and processes. 

Other initiatives include promoting technology innovation in the healthcare sector. The city is working with the NHS to bring digital healthcare to all Londoners. 

Learn more about smart city initiatives in our guide: Smart City New York: Cooperation To Innovation

Becoming One of the Top 3 Smartest Cities 

5G Wireless Connection

High-speed connectivity, and the Internet of things, including sensors, smart infrastructure, and monitoring devices, is at the heart of all smart cities. The internet of things requires 5G connectivity to run effectively and to support large data usage. 

London will thus need to place 5G cells approximately every 200 meters. The city is hoping to address this challenge by using drones to detect safe and unused spaces. The 5G hardware will be installed in these unused spaces. 

London Plans to Become the Most Walkable City 

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, wants to promote cycling, walking or public transport for the daily commuting of Londoners. The walking action plan intends to increase the number of people by redesigning the streets for multi-mobility. More walking and cycling lanes, more pedestrian crossings, and new traffic signal technology will help citizens in their daily commutes. 

Working With the Greater London Authority 

The LOTI will develop digital collaboration between the city hall and the thirty-three boroughs of Greater London. London is fragmented, and this makes it challenging to share data and solutions across public services. The office aims to minimize duplication of effort through “build once and share often” practices. 

Smart London Initiatives 

The program to turn London into the smartest city in the world consists of more than twenty initiatives. Some of the latest smart city solutions include:

London Datastore

To make city data accessible, the mayor launched the London Datastore, a free and open data-sharing portal. All citizen will have access to over  700 city information datasets. The datasets are organized into eight categories: jobs, economy, transport, environment, community safety, housing, communities, health, and London as a world city.  

The city data analytics programme, a part of the London datastore program, supports data collaboration as part of the Smarter London Together project. The central project management facility provides a dashboard visibility of the data and uses data science to predict service demand. 

Sadiq Khan’s Civic Innovation Challenge 

A funding opportunity for startups who develop innovations to tackle the following issues: active travel, electric vehicles, affordable housing, physical activity, loneliness and isolation, dementia services, financial inclusion, and digital skills. The winners were awarded £15,000 to test their ideas. 

Advanced Transport System 

London is trying to manage the chronic traffic congestion problems in the Greater London area. The authorities will invest 4 billion GBP in transportation over the next ten years. 

Traffic congestion has always been a problem around Heathrow airport, which is one of the world’s busiest airports. The Heathrow pod system, developed by Ultra global prt, is a zero-emission rapid transit system connecting terminal 5 with the business car park. The system consists of 21 public pods, eliminating the need to use the bus, and thus cutting emissions. 

The success of the Heathrow pods has driven British car companies to follow their lead by creating autonomous driverless pods. 

Combating Pollution

The city will monitor air quality through sensors attached to lamp posts in affected areas, as part of the Connected London program. Two Google Street View cars will record smog occurrences in high pollution spots. 

London, the Greenest City 

Large companies like Tesco committed to taking green initiatives such as: 

  • Use of 100 percent renewable energy in their installations by 2020 
  • Using zero-emission vehicles by 2025. 
  • Reduce waste by 50 percent by 2030. 

Learn more about smart city initiatives in our guide: Singapore Smart City: A Holistic Transformation

What Makes Smart London Unique? 

London’s long term and interventionist approach is something other cities can look up to. They promote complete collaboration between all stakeholders, put connectivity and innovation at the forefront. Initiatives such as the civic innovation challenge promote economic growth and inclusion, while the LOTI opens the gates to tech development. 

At the same time, The London Datastore program promotes transparency, giving all residents access to the city’s data. The city’s consistent and coordinated efforts to bring transformation through technology are something that makes Smart London more than a possibility.