New report reveals public apathy for smart cities

Only 18% of the UK public has heard of a ‘smart city’, according to a new report from the IET.


Smart cities may be all the rage with city planners, technologists and the world’s journalists, but it appears to be a different story with the UK people.

Only 18% of the UK public has heard of a smart city, according to research carried out by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET).

The research is reported in a new IET report, Smart Cities – Time to involve the people, which also reveals low interest in the technologies typically associated with smart cities. For example, only 8% saw a value in being able to order driverless or electric transport from their smart phone.

Cities’ adoption of new technologies has traditionally involved little consultation with consumers. Consequently, the report suggests that the public has yet to buy into the idea of smart cities – and be convinced of the value and benefits that technology could bring to their daily lives.

New disruptive technologies and applications such as Uber and Airbnb or helping to change hearts and minds, but the findings suggest there is still some way to go. Key findings:

* Awareness of smart cities is lowest amongst those aged over 65 (6%) and highest among those aged 18-34 (37%)

* Almost 30% of respondents felt that ‘intelligent’ streetlights activated by movement to improve safety, deter crime and save energy would be useful

* More than 25% were interested in buildings that generate their own energy, and recycle water and waste

* Around 23% thought sensors embedded in roads and buildings that measure traffic flows, predict congestion, and adjust traffic lights and signals, would be useful

The report also cites projects in Glasgow, Peterborough, Bristol and London that have successfully taken a people-centred approach to smart cities and offer examples of how technology can improve the quality of life for residents, workers and visitors alike.

“In spite of substantial investment in smart cities from the Government, local authorities and businesses, most people don’t understand the concept or, more importantly, how smart city digital communications technology could improve their quality of life,” said Alan Howard, IET Head of Thought Leadership.

The IET is one of the world’s largest engineering institutions with more than 167,000 members in 150 countries. It reflects the increasingly diverse nature of engineering in the 21st century and promotes the work of all its members in the engineering ecosystem.