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'Smart cities need sustainable, innovative funding'

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All UK local authorities have ambitions to deliver economic regeneration, improve their environments and deliver tangible societal value to residents and businesses.

The technological innovation and advances that lie behind the smart cities movement are opening a plethora of new ways to deliver on this ambition and make our cities greener, cleaner, happier, healthier and wealthier.

To date, there have been many pilot projects successfully trialling new technologies, delivering valued outcomes. However, in the age of austerity, with central government funding halved , the fundamental questions facing a city with smart aspirations are how successful projects can be delivered at scale and who’s going to pay.

Government money funds pilots and research and development, but rarely does it extend to long term funding for ongoing operational costs. Viable business models to justify investment from the private sector are few and far between. To unlock smart cities’ possibilities and make meaningful improvements to the lives of citizens, sustainable funding models are needed.

One established model that has been funding public infrastructure (ie bus shelters, public toilets and bike hire schemes) across the globe for decades is advertising. Public transport concessions up and down the country, including the largest advertising concession in the world – the London Underground contract – are funded in part by advertising. Without it there would be even greater demands on public finances.

The advertising model is now being applied to digitally enable urban environments. Pulse Smart Hub, the smartest in smart street furniture, provides next generation connectivity that shares information and ‘senses’ its environment at no cost to the public or taxpayer, and is capable of customisation and adaptation for its local environment.

The smart hub will deliver on public health outcomes as it will monitor air quality and weather conditions to assist local authorities in tackling the urban air quality crisis, and provide public access defibrillators in the public realm allowing anyone, even without training, to save a life.

Other important capabilities include a 999 emergency button, public Wi-Fi, a touchscreen to access hyper local services (ie maps, visitor information etc), local and national calls, mobile phone charging and scope for 5G mobile offloading to increase mobile network capacity . These services will be delivered at zero cost to the user and the taxpayer and ensure digital inclusion for the whole community.

Local authorities can embrace the opportunities presented by new technologies by engaging in a public-private collaboration described here without placing a greater strain on the public purse. It’s a tried and tested model and a fast and economical way for local authorities to deliver tangible outcomes for their communities.

Steve Peel, senior executive, Urban Innovation, Pulse Smart Hub

Column sponsored and supplied by Wildstone

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Readers' comments (1)

  • This article has complete insight and advice for the Mayors & CEO s of up coming 100 smart cities in India ,

    Pramod Bhandula

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