By Daniel Hunter

The UK’s cities will be helped to get smart, thanks to the launch of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills’s new Smart Cities Forum today (Wednesday).

It comes as a new report published today values the smart cities industry at more than $400 billion globally by 2020, with the UK expected to gain a 10% share ($40 billion).

A smart city uses intelligent technology to enhance our quality of life in urban environments. Cities can use the data in a variety of ways; to save money, minimise waste, measure domestic water usage and manage transport routes.

Allowing the public access to real time information enables people to make more informed choices, such as planning a journey by checking for available room on trains and buses or even identifying car parking spaces before leaving the house.

Today’s ‘Global Market Opportunities and UK Capabilities for future smart cities’ report highlights how this technology could transform lives and provide a huge economic boost.

To ensure that the UK does not miss out on the opportunities offered by smart cities, a new Smart Cities Forum has been established, chaired by Universities and Science Minister David Willetts and Cities Minister Greg Clark, and with representatives from cities, business, and scientists.

Mr Willetts said: “The opportunity to develop new technologies for smart cities in the UK is massive. We want to make sure that we are at the forefront of this digital revolution so we can stay ahead in the global race designing new innovations in the UK and exporting them across the world.

“With around 80% of the UK’s population living in cities, we need to ensure that they are fit for purpose in the digital age. Through our information economy strategy we will support cities to improve energy efficiency, reduce carbon emissions and save money.”

Volker Buscher, Arup Director and Smart Cities Forum member, who wrote the report, said: “By 2050, the human population will have reached 9 billion people with 75% of the world’s inhabitants living in cities. Smart technologies can help address some of the challenges of rapid urbanisation by improving services and managing their efficiency.

“We already have incredible academics and professionals in the UK so we are well equipped to capitalise on this growing market and help create a better environment for us all.”

The government is already supporting investment in this sector, as highlighted in a background paper published by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills today. This investment includes around £95 million of research into smart cities funded by Research Councils UK, £50 million over 5 years earmarked for the new Future Cities Catapult centre being established by the Technology Strategy Board in London, and £33million invested in future city demonstrators earlier this year.

Other government-funded activities include transport projects to promote intelligent transport systems and smart ticketing, the roll out of telecare and telehealth in the NHS, and the introduction of smart meters by 2020.

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