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Smart cities need to get smarter, says report from RICS

Smart cities may be clever with their technology but they’re not smart enough about their strategies, says a report from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). Titled “Smart Cities, Big Data and the Built Environment: What’s Required?”, the theme is very much that the technology is terrific but it’s not going to deliver real benefits until business is more engaged and technologies are more interoperable, among a number of other difficulties.

The research looks at Bristol, Milton Keynes, Amsterdam and Taipei (pictured), and suggests that there are two key areas that professionals need to address: an understanding of the use and supply of “built environment big data” and the changing role of the stakeholder.

Smart cities need data savvy people

The difficulties are not with the technology (although that does raise another issue) but with the people, who are simply not “data savvy” enough, says the report. In other words the data in the buildings’ infrastructure is available but the professionals involved have not yet grasped how this can help their business or public sector enterprise.

“Cities need to develop clear smart city and data strategies to provide greater certainty to stakeholders and improve incentives for companies to share their data,” says the official announcement. It also calls for a co-ordinated approach: “Professional bodies need to act more decisively, championing change and the uptake of data and smart city skills within the built environment sector.”

To an extent this has been the problem with technology for a long time. The “build it and they will come” attitude is pervasive and has in the past led to sprawling, unconnected islands of tech.

This is what’s led to the underlying difficulty alluded to in the report: the technology just isn’t interoperable. This makes it difficult for technology A to talk to technology B, so the smart city finds itself needing a layer of translation before it actually works for the stakeholder. The answer is to grasp some sort of strategy early on; it can only be hoped that the RICS message gets through and starts this process happening at this early stage rather than waiting until some sort of clunky workaround has to be applied later.