UK’s Newest Trade Mission in Dublin and their premiere event at Dublin City Council’s offices in Wood Quay, Dublin

As W. Edwards Deming famously said, “Without data, you’re just another person with an opinion”. He famously captured the perils associated with solely using ones intuition/gut in making very serious and impacting decisions. Despite the dangers, data driven approaches to decision making have been mainly overlooked throughout history due to many reasons including resource constraints, awareness, etc.

In recent years, events and trends such as population growth around the world has spurned a rising resource scarcity problem that has pressed nation and non-nation actors into action on using what they have more efficiently. The UK government via their Department of International Trade (a.k.a. DIT) have launched their “Inspiring Future Cities” trade mission to Dublin Ireland to pitch to Dublin City Council and it’s smart city initiative, which is a good match in terms of underlying intent.

The challenge is considerable in terms of how city authorities plan, create and efficiently use its resources in cities that are experiencing large population increases with no signs of slowing down? Taking on this challenge leads to events like Inspiring Future Cities, where the UK Trade Mission is presenting “elevator pitches” from its smart city vendors to Dublin during its three-day visit. The event organised by the UK’s DIT and the Digital Hub in Dublin is the must attend event for all those interested in the future of smarter cities!

I attended the UK Ambassador’s reception at the Ambassador’s residence to welcome the delegation on the start of their visit. Looking back, I was impressed by the passion, presence and vision held for future cities by those in attendance from the Energy, Engineering, Data Science and Town Planning fields of our society. Robin Barnett CMG, UK Ambassador to Ireland made great points about this trade mission was not only a UK – Ireland affair; the concept of smarter cities is a global issue given the global nature of rising populations and resource allocation in cities. He also made very real points about the need for careful execution of smart city planning and how cyber security is an issue that occupies the agenda of both the Irish and UK governments when considering future plans. This resonating message was well received, as was his hospitality for all in attendance at the event. Talking to him towards the end of the event, he also pointed out that this trade mission is only the start of the UK government’s efforts to plan and develop a better tomorrow. Provincial Irish cities should expect calls into the near future.

The trade mission members I spoke to had a common sense of purpose and passion to move forward in the development of smarter cities that can react faster to everything from a busy Monday morning to a major disaster in their midst. Trade mission members as a cohort also share a common pioneering spirit with their companies incorporated from 2009 and ran by highly qualified professionals who appear seriously engaged to their vision for smarter cities, one innovation at a time!

This may seem somewhat obvious, but given the data driven approach to achieve a smarter city, the experience and skills of those charged with such an important task must be rigorously examined for capability and ability to succeed; for a heavy weight of responsibility is laid upon their shoulders! Given the nature of the Inspiring Future Cities initiative, it’s also no surprise that data takes centre stage in the high tech presentations slated for the main event at the offices of Dublin City Council on the 30th of November 2017.

The line up for the day was as follows:

AppyParking traffic management systems

B-Cam body-worn security cameras

BlockDox IoT solutions

Calipsa AI video monitoring & analysis

Citi Logik advanced analytics

EPN Consulting smart city consultancy

Hanhaa IoT solutions

River Cycleway Consortium

Thames Deckway project

The means international placemaking consultancy

The vendors together look to transform security, traffic management, services deployment and quality of life management into data centric areas that benefit from the fierce pace of technological development making amazing things possible once the construct is straight and true to the intent behind its creation!

The conversations I had at the reception got me really thinking about the concept of a smarter city for established cities rather then a newly planned smart city. Lineage is important as one’s home cannot transform in one big jolt, a transformation must be gradual and phased to bring the citizenry along for the transformational journey. The concept of serving the people in a safe manner is also extremely important, as you cannot have a city held for ransom by a cyber attack for instance. A small scale but very real example of this happened in the 2016 San Francisco ransomware attack on its metro train ticketing system. The ransomware attackers demanded circa $73,000 in Bitcoin for release of the metro’s ticketing system. They were met with a refusal to pay along with free travel for San Francisco’s citizenry over the weekend it took to restore its ticketing system from the attack. Smart cities learning from this attack need to think of contingency planning and how integrated their systems need to be to be effective in the eyes of its present and future citizenry!

As the 2016 San Francisco metro-ticketing hack thought us, all journeys of transformation carry risk. However, in the case of smarter cities the risks are far outweighed by the rewards. It’s a journey that will see mistakes but in my view, it’s a requirement to ensure tomorrow’s society has technology as its ally, rather then its enemy in the game of life!

You can see more from John on Business and Technology at Irish Tech News


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