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Scots urge councils to embrace smart city technologies

Survey of Scottish citizens indicates a number of benefits that local communities can gain from IoT and other connected technologies

Research on behalf of the Scottish Wide Area Network (SWAN) is claiming to have found a clarion call on behalf of Scottish citizens for their local councils to embrace a wider range of digital technologies.

The From the smart city to public Wi-Fi study sampled the views of 2,000 Scottish adults in May and June 2019, exploring the attitudes of Scottish citizens to increased digitisation and the internet of things (IoT). It found that people living in Scotland were keen to see more digitisation, with as many as 69% of residents saying digital access to local government services influences where they choose to live.

While many Scottish councils already use digital channels to enable citizens to contact them, the survey found that the prospect of IoT and the smart city was welcomed, with 83% overall believing IoT could enhance the delivery of services. Among 18- to 34-year-olds, 92% believed IoT would enhance delivery of local council services. However, among the over-55s, this figure fell to 76%.

After enquiring about the gains from living in a smart city, the biggest benefit cited, by 56% of respondents, was easier access to public services. Virtually the same amount of respondents indicated safety benefits (55%) – such as smart CCTV to alert police to a crowd or disturbance, or smart street lighting that turns on when needed – and improvements to public transport (51%).

Other benefits included creating a more environmentally friendly and greener city (48%) – through, for example, reducing energy consumption and monitoring air quality – and attracting new residents or businesses to the city (28%).

Exploring how different demographics responded to this question, the survey showed that creating a safer city was seen as the greatest benefit for over-55s (55%), while easier access to public services was key for 18- to 34-year olds (63%).

However, the research also highlighted that, in some areas, local authorities will need to educate residents on the benefits IoT can bring them. Respondents in the Highlands were less certain about the impact of smart cities or the use of IoT. Nearly a quarter (23%) didn’t expect IoT to enhance the delivery of local services and a higher than average number (18%) couldn’t see any benefit of living in a smart city. 

Another fact borne out by the research findings was that public Wi-Fi has grown to be an expectation among citizens and visitors. When asked if they agreed with the statement that “Scottish councils/local government should provide free Wi-Fi/internet access to all citizens in public areas”, 74% of respondents agreed.

“It’s clear that technology can enhance local government operations in many ways, such as bringing high-speed internet to libraries or ensuring targets to reduce energy waste in public places can be measured. What is even more positive is that the Scottish public is so willing to embrace new innovations from their councils,” said Jack Anderson, head of digital and innovation for SWAN, commenting on the From the smart city to public Wi-Fi study.

“When implemented effectively, IoT can make Scotland’s communities great places to live, as well as optimising council spending.” 

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