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5G, AI and IoT drive leading UK smart cities

Survey reveals UK cities are embracing smart technologies but data security concerns hinder urban developments

A survey from software and services marketplace provider Capterra has revealed a growing prevalence of smart tech in UK cities, with 5G, artificial intelligence (AI) and internet of things (IoT) technologies the most widely available.

It also found that while smart cities are evolving, important steps must be taken to foster trust and acceptance from residents.

In May 2023, Capterra surveyed 1,058 UK citizens aged 18 and over living in an urban area with at least 50,000 inhabitants. The respondents were required to understand and correctly identify what smart cities were after being shown a definition, namely: “A smart city is a place where traditional networks and services are made more efficient with the use of digital and telecommunications technologies, allowing the sharing of information to improve the quality of citizen welfare, the quality of government services and business opportunities.”

5G was identified by 54% of respondents as the most widely available smart technology in their city. Capterra stressed that with a fast and responsive 5G network, smart city systems have the ability to collect and analyse data from multiple sources to enhance public security, safety and communication.

In addition to 5G, respondents noticed the availability of other smart city technologies, such as artificial intelligence (42%), internet of things (37%), biometrics (35%), information communication technologies (32%), geospatial technologies (26%), blockchain (23%) and robotics (17%).

The study also noted how these other technologies could empower smart cities. For example, it said AI could help with predictive maintenance for road repairs and optimise energy and waste management. With the use of AI showing promise in urban developments, a further 39% of respondents said they would like to see this smart technology in their city.

Meanwhile, IoT devices can gather and monitor data on various aspects, such as air quality, temperature, traffic and waste management, to help companies manage resources and be more sustainable. Capterra said this might explain why IoT tech was particularly prevalent in London, where it was the most common smart technology available for 45% of residents.

Yet despite the growth of smart city technologies, key concerns were raised by the study. According to respondents, the three main challenges pertaining to the use of smart technologies were the lack of data protection (62%), increased surveillance (49%) and dematerialisation or loss of human touch (42%). In particular, a combined 69% of respondents said they were quite or extremely concerned about cyber attacks and ransomware in case of a data breach. Nearly half (45%) cited the lack of regulation and data privacy policies as the biggest barrier to smart city development.

“Data protection is the top concern among UK residents in the face of smart city technology,” said Capterra UK content analyst Eduardo Garcia Rodriguez. “As smart cities depend on the use of large volumes of data from various sources, companies and other urban authorities need to do everything they can to reassure residents that their data is being collected in a responsible and legal manner.”

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