(Boerio, N. and Guida, B) – London is moving towards future faster than ever by becoming in few years time a real smart city. The Major, Sadiq Khan, announced it last January claiming his aim to make his city “the world’s leading smart city” by making it:

“[…] the global home of the data economy, to seize the benefits of new artificial intelligence, and inspire a new generation of inventors and developers to make our city even better” – he added. 

According to the latest tech conferences, tech and data will make Londoners’ lives easier. Being intelligent or being fast and quick are the keys to access to a different and ‘better’ world, where people have a direct connection with their public services and it opens the doors at what it has been recently defined as the “age of cities”.

However, what would this city’s mutation practically mean?

By looking at cities such as New York, Helsinki or Seul, getting smart means improving networking and connectivity by using internet and tech tools. The cities mentioned above are applying theirselves  to specific plans that aim at making better, mainly, their strategic sectors that for years have represented their strengths.

The areas generally recognised at the moment are:

Economy: trying to position the city as a capital of the new economy increasing city’s competitiveness in global marketing to improve productivity;

People: investing in education; trying to improve citizens participation; reducing social divisions regarding education, gender, sexual orientation, health conditions and religion;

Living: achieving a high quality of life investing in health, safety and wellbeing;

Environment: increasing the use of sustainable, recyclable energy sources;

Mobility: making safer movements using connected cars, vehicle detection, traffic control, smart parking and payments.

London is focusing itself on the mobility area launching already the ” Smart London Plan“, developed under the leadership of the capital’s first Chief Digital Officer, Theo Blackwell.

The plan will be also in partnership with Bloomberg Associates and backed by a group of London councils. The goals to reach are focused on a digital collaboration across London’s boroughs and public services, improving connectivity and digital skills, in order to ensure that technology is designed around Londoners’ needs.

Most importantly the major’s will is increasing TFL (Trasport for London) to tackle not-spots – areas of poor internet provision – and provide better digital connectivity for Londoners. If successful the founding will be also invested in fibre-optic connectivity on the underground network to public buildings near to tube stations.

“The real thing that’s going to help cities is management use access to public data. There’s sort of innovation that we don’t even know of that will arise from that and so an important part of our strategy is not just traditional smart cities and smart traffic lights and things like that. But it’s actually built in the digital capability of our public institutions so that when we bring together these vast data sets that we can actually use them ” said Blackwell.

Using open data, would mean, for example, helping the National Health Service in providing services for citizens “So when we talk about serving the citizen we’re also talking about how we integrate the data that we can get around health and adult social care into the mix” he added.

Other examples of benefits coming from this smarter use of data are concerning bus routes able to track the changing way people move around London, as well as crowdsourcing pollution data to update Londoners about their local air quality in real time.

In such urban mutation, politics plays an important role too. One of the questions most asked is if Brexit could stall the tech growth of London. Most of the investments in tech and jobs are part of the EU project “Horizon 2020”.

It is the biggest EU Research and Innovation programme ever with nearly €80 billion of funding available over 7 years (2014 to 2020) that aims to drive economic growth and create jobs among cities member.

Horizon is not the only source of founding there are other bigger amounts of foundig available that now are under threat from Brexit.

The vision in not clear yet, but the UK government assures that these changes will not affect negatively the city’s growth and that a favorable agreement is going to be made.

Nevertheless such important economic and tech growth, 62% out of 4000 interviewed during our public survey said they are not aware of such city’s mutatuation. Having explained to them what being a smart city mean, 29% asserted that they do not like what is happening because it could meand undermining their privacy more than it is undermined at the moment.

The other 71%, instead, are positive about such London improvement. Just in few years time we will see the results an determining who was right or not, but what is clear is that a huge tech  development is currently undergoing.