Précis – Glasgow has overcome competition from 30 other UK cities to host the Technology Strategy Board’s “Future Cities Demonstrator” which aims to showcase how services across health, transport, energy and public safety can be integrated to benefit the communities that they serve.

What?

The Future Cities Demonstrator will run for an initial two year period to enable businesses to test new solutions which address Glasgow’s social issues, such as energy consumption and low life expectancy, and improve the quality of Council services. A City Observatory, based at Strathclyde University, will allow academic and industry researchers to analyse more than 200 information feeds about Glasgow as a means of gathering data so that integrated services can be developed. The innovative technologies to be introduced as part of Glasgow’s demonstrator are said to include real-time traffic information, a pothole reporting service and facial analysis for the city’s CCTV network. Thirty other UK cities and urban areas have each been awarded grants of £50,000 to carry out a feasibility study and develop their demonstrator project proposal.

So what?

Whilst aimed primarily at existing business rather than start-ups, the Future Cities Demonstrator provides a shop window for technology businesses to demonstrate their capabilities. If the Glasgow demonstrator is successful, a roll-out of similar projects to other cities within the UK could reportedly generate a market worth over £20 billion to the technology sector over the coming years. Central to the success of the Future Cities Demonstrator will be the free flow of data to and from public sector bodies, businesses and individuals. Access to generic information, such as real-time train and bus updates, is likely to be readily available and easy to share. However, the real test for Glasgow will be whether it can overcome its public’s reticence to share a greater degree of personal data (in compliance with the Data Protection Act) for developing services which address real social issues. At the end of the Future Cities Demonstrator, the success of the investment should not be judged on the quality or reliability of Glasgow’s real-time traffic reports, but on whether the new technologies developed with the investment have enhanced the wellbeing of the city’s inhabitants.