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Paul Sanderson's Friday Blog

Date: 11/10/2013 | Author: Paul Sanderson

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Could smart cities be the next big thing?

I have to admit, it isn't often that a press release from the Government gets me thinking.

Often they are important and should be reported, but they don't get you thinking. This week though, a press release from BIS really caught my eye.

It was from this story on smart cities in which the Government said that it would be doing much more to develop the idea of smart cities.

Basically, the idea of smart cities is that intelligent technology can be used to enhance urban life. So as an example, smart metres are being rolled out that will help us monitor our electricity usage, or technology now exists where the public can easily work out the most efficient journey using public transport such as the one used by Londoners on the Transport for London website.

Science Minister David Willetts and Cities Minister Greg Clarke with representatives from cities, business and science will be on the Smart Cities Forum, which will be looking at ways the UK can benefit from this smart cities idea. It believes this could be worth £25 billion to the UK economy.

Coincidentally, I was talking to somebody yesterday who will have to remain nameless, and they were wondering aloud whether there might be ways to monitor household recycling by item in the same way that smart metres will monitor energy. Clearly, this would be difficult, but may not be impossible.

But maybe we could improve our usage of data to get a better idea of waste volumes. For example, most major retailers collect data on us through use of loyalty cards. They know what we are buying and when we are buying it on a household basis down to what brands we like.

Although this data is really valuable to supermarkets and gives them a competitive advantage, could there be a way for it to be securely made available to those in the recycling sector to give a sense of recycling arisings by area? For example, could a collection round be optimised based on the predicted recycling arisings based on what had been sold to consumers? Or maybe the materials recycling facilities would be given advanced warning of the materials they are likely to receive, and therefore optimise inputs to give improved outputs in terms of quality?

"Big Data" as it is known, is set to transform our society and is already doing so on social media sites such as Facebook, through loyalty cards or how we can use market intelligence. Smart cities and Big Data could be the key to developing resource efficient and circular economies and I'd be intrigued to find out your idea about ways in which we can use these philosophies to achieve our aims. 

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