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Best smart cities in the UK

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Here is a run down of the best smart cities in the UK.

  1. Bristol

Bristol reached the top spot of Huawei’s smart cities rankings after extending its innovation programmes and further integrating them into local services through the establishment of a city operations centre. The southwestern city was praised for its open data access, energy innovation, and community engagement.

Bristol City Council and the University of Bristol run Bristol Is Open, a city scale communications and data sharing platform. The project is built on an open high-speed network that combines fibre, a wireless ‘hetnet’, experimental network technologies and a radio frequency mesh network deployed on 2,000 lampposts.

The council also operates a City Innovation Team that has worked on pilots of emerging smart city technologies and the Bristol Data Dome, a 3D space for visualising real-time data. Knowle West Media Centre, a Bristol-based arts centre and charity, has created a development framework called The Bristol Approach to help ensure that new digital solutions focus on the needs of citizens.

2. London

The UK capital slipped to second place in the 2017 index, but remains the only city other than Bristol to be named as a ‘leader’. London has led the drive for open data through the establishment of the London Datastore, Transport for London’s array of open data feeds and unified API, and the London Development Database of planning permissions across London.

Responsibility for London’s digital developments is shared between the mayor, Greater London Authority, and the 33 boroughs, while the Smart London Board provides further advice. The appointment of Theo Blackwell as the city’s first Chief Digital Officer is expected to accelerate developments.

The top-performing boroughs include Camden, Westminster and Greenwich, which established Digital Greenwich as an in-house multidisciplinary team to develop, implement, and manage its smart city strategy.

3. Manchester

Manchester is Huawei’s most improved smart city, after climbing two places in the rankings to third. The city aims to be among the top 20 smart cities in the world by 2025. The Manchester Smart City programme coordinates its strategy, which divides the projects into themes of Live, Work, Play, Move, Learn, and Organise.

The city council is investing £16 million into CityVerve, the UK’s smart city IoT demonstrator, with a brief to showcase how internet-connected technology and data can transform a city. The project includes community wellness initiatives, air quality monitoring, a cycling safety scheme, and a talkative bus system.

Manchester is also one of five cities involved in Triangulum, a European Commission Horizon 2020 research project focused on sustainable mobility, energy, ICT and business opportunities.

4. Birmingham

Birmingham’s smart city strategy is led by Digital Birmingham. It oversees a roadmap developed by the Birmingham Smart City Commission, a body set up by the city council and comprised of representatives from business, academia and the public sector.

Public Wi-Fi is available through the city centre, and new smart city technologies are developed in the East Birmingham Smart City Demonstrator. Birmingham is also participating in City4Age, a European Commission Horizon 2020 research project investigating how technology can help the elderly.

Data is an integral part in strategy, and the council has an open-by-default data policy. Current projects include the Birmingham Data Factory selection of open datasets, the West Midlands Open Data Forum discussion group, and the Big Data Corridor programme, which helps SMEs exploit data.

5. Leeds

Leeds rounds out the top five thanks to efforts in health innovation and open data. Its strategy is managed by a Smart City Board made up of representatives from city departments and relevant teams.

The board is led by City Council Chief Digital and Information Officer Dylan Roberts, who developed a “city as a platform” concept to integrate cross-agency partners to deliver overall outcomes for the community rather than discrete services.

The city brings together open data from different sectors in Data Mill North, and develops new ways to exploit it at the Leeds Institute for Data Analytics, a University of Leeds unit with state-of-the-art analytics facilities. Leeds has also established the Age Friendly Smart City project, which develops technology to help elderly residents.

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