12 November 2018

Open technology and data connects citizens and cities

There is much interest across the public sector and media attention about Smart or Connected Cities. Being smart or connected is about a place-based strategy that is focused on improving lives by using the power of technology and data for delivering better public sector services within the place. The ‘place’ strategy must also address the needs of towns and rural communities as well as cities.

There are many political, social and economic challenges in achieving this but if technology and data are not to be barriers we will need open platforms as a foundation for integrated and beneficial smart place services.

Being open (and secure) is at the heart of achieving smart – not just technology or data but also about way of working – collaboration is key. But collaboration requires interoperability. Interoperability requires open and secure data sharing, which requires open and secure technology platforms.

This will require an open platform approach to create an eco-system for sharing, collaboration and developing innovative solutions. The platform provides the eco-system for engaging those with the ideas to drive the solution that smart technology can benefit places and society.

Technology vendors who take an open systems approach rather than a monolithic or proprietary approach can differentiate within the marketplace and potentially gain better engagement from public sector stakeholders.

It is not just about infrastructure but about the power of data to better inform how services should be delivered. Open and standardised data sharing services will be needed. There is lots of evidence on the ground that sharing data is critical but there is still not enough join up across organisations for data sharing.

Lots can be done at a local level if authorities collaborate more together. Pockets of data need to be joined together – internal data; data about the population; NHS data. If NHS organisations restrict access to some data this can impact patient outcomes when it comes to adult care services. Whilst there are concerns for sharing, organisations need not be so over-protective. Behaviours and attitudes must change to overcome this and we need organisations to share data to drive change.

It is therefore about bringing technology and place together to create the environment for the solutions to solve the problems for sustainable communities. It is about how we reconstruct communities; use public spaces more effectively and enable people to live better healthier lives; living at home for longer. These strategies will need the right data analytics on secure open platforms to provide the insight and hence planning needed.

Local authorities need to better understand how areas are currently used through such better data enabled understanding - which will then inform how areas can be better used. This can support planning to build the right type of safer and happier communities and enable regeneration in the area.

Examples of this from the BT IoT platform include:

* Being able to discover where people travel to and from, the routes they take, and what time they make their journeys
* Insight into where and when people visit certain locations
* Combining air quality and location data to see how many people’s health is affected in certain areas. This can help local authorities make plans to reduce pollutants and create cleaner, healthier places.

Ultimately we (citizens) also need to change the way we live our lives – people must better engage with their environment to make it more sustainable for future generations. If we had more insight into the consequences of some of our actions maybe this would make a difference (e.g. waste and air pollution). An open platform approach will potentially open up the opportunities for achieving this.

Phil Brunkard – CIO, Regional Government & Health, BT

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