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Seven Cities to A Smarter Scotland and Beyond.

Zack caught up with Pippa over a cup of Peppermint Tea to get the lowdown on UrbanTide’s work to date on the Smart Cities Readiness Project with Scottish Government and the Scottish Cities Alliance.

From Adam Smith to Alexander Graham Bell, Scotland is well renowned for the contributions it has made to the economic, cultural and technological landscapes of the globe. That cutting edge and desire to evolve is no less apparent in the desire to make our cities better, more connected places to live and work.

The Brief

UrbanTide are currently helping to establish the smart cities readiness across Scotland’s seven cities - Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, Perth and Stirling. The project was commissioned by the Digital Directorate of the Scottish Government in conjunction with the Scottish Cities Alliance.  It was put out to open tender via Public Contracts Scotland in April 2014 and UrbanTide were delighted to win this opportunity against extremely worthy opponents and some fellow collaborators.  The outputs of the project are: a reusable reference model and self-assessment framework together with the development of an investment roadmap for cities to take forward both individually and collaboratively.

Winning this opportunity was obviously fantastic news. To be at the very forefront of the industry in Scotland is rightly received as a fantastic endorsement of the UrbanTide credentials and great strides have been made in delivery of this project already.

Progress

Since late June 2014, effort has been put towards producing an online tool for Scotland’s cities to establish where they are along the smart cities spectrum, where planned investment will take them and the level of forward ambition. This has been a fairly intricate undertaking. Scotland’s cities vary widely in their smart cities capability, potential and also in terms of their character and identity. Great care has been taken to create a tool that accurately gauges an individual cities smart city credentials, without subjecting them to a process that will homogenise the country’s urban environments. 

Drawing on previous experience from the winning bid for the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) Future Cities Demonstrator Competition, Future City | Glasgow, and from influential research by the highly regarded American think tank International Data Co-operation (IDC) and others, the Scottish Government and UrbanTide have jointly developed a mechanism that will allow Scottish cities to self-assess across certain areas of operation or service within a city and on a city-wide basis as far as smart cities readiness is concerned.

The 'Tool'

In simplest terms, what the tool asks cities to do is to initially focus on a number of specific areas or ‘domains’ within the city.  These are typically sectors such as transport/ mobility, health, tourism and energy but can be any domain or field of activity within a city.

A smart city is created when lots of optimised sectors or 'domains' within a city are combined and integrated together for the benefit of those who live and work there.

Once a domain is decided the tool or ‘maturity model’ is then applied to establish the following;

•" Assess where you currently are on the journey to being a smart city;

• Decide where you want to be by 2020 aligned to your strategic priorities;

• Identify what investments and adjustments are required to get you there; 

and,

• Consider whether any parts of your forward programme might be better advanced in collaboration with other cities and wider partners"

[Reference: Guidance Note, Smart Cities Maturity Model and Self-Assessment Tool, jointly developed by Scottish Government & UrbanTide, October 2014]

The 'maturity model' focuses on the following areas: strategic intent, data, technology, governance & service delivery models and stakeholder engagement. A domain by domain based approach is used initially, graduating to a city-wide review once the domain analysis has been completed. This allows cities to move forward in a focused way and avoid getting overwhelmed.

In order to comprehensively decide on domains and ensure concepts such as city identity are preserved, UrbanTide encourages strong stakeholder engagement and are currently working closely with nominated city sponsors and leading workshops with the wide variety of stakeholders within each city.  The workshops are a great opportunity to optimise the use of the online tool, to offer guidance to those who will be making decisions on behalf of their city and for UrbanTide to see just how varied and multifaceted each individual city is both in smart cities and general terms.

Scotland's Cities and Beyond

The beauty of the work that is being done is that it will have a legacy. The materials will be able to be used time and time again and not just for cities. Towns and villages will be able to apply the same methodology and principles to connect with each other tapping into the idea of smart countries. The techniques being utilised and honed here will also be applicable globally. The Smart Cities Readiness Assessment offers Scotland a fantastic opportunity to lay a smart cities marker down as an example for other countries to follow and all the early signs are highly positive.

This represents only the first step on the road to achieving seven smart cities in Scotland, and there are many barriers to be overcome before any sort of delivery is commenced. But the conversation has started, the potential is becoming clear and the collective keenness for the challenge is highly infectious.

Exciting times indeed!  Watch this space...

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