Making cities smarter

A computer generated image of a futuristic smart city

We're systematically advancing city living with communication technology and have set the standards for smart living worldwide.

A multi-disciplinary team from the University have bolstered a global initiative to help major cities become 'smart' in order to improve living standards.

The concept of smart cities was established by GSMA, the organisation that represents mobile operators worldwide, and aims to help major urban centres across the globe in using communication technology and existing ICT infrastructures.

The belief is that technology - particularly the latest smartphones - will dramatically improve public services, enhance security and benefit the economy.

Dr G.C. Alex Peng from the University's Information School, said: "We conducted some research for the GSMA of councils in London who already use smart technology. We assessed how people engage with smart technology and whether it had a positive economic and environmental impact."

Dr Peng looked at smart parking, whereby citizens can see where parking spaces are available.

"Something as simple as that can save a lot of time across a number of days and a number of people. This is just one example of how smart technology helps the environment - people are driving around for shorter periods of time and therefore using less fuel."

The implications of smart living go beyond parking, however, as Dr Peng said: "A future smart city will contain a series of highly innovative and intelligent technologies that will affect every single aspect of our lives, ranging from home facilities, to transportation, to education, to healthcare, to energy and many more."

But at the moment there is no clear set of standards as to how smart a city should be and indeed how this can be measured.

A future smart city will contain a series of highly innovative and intelligent technologies that will affect every single aspect of our lives, ranging from home facilities, to transportation, to education, to healthcare, to energy and many more.

Dr G.C. Alex Peng, Information School

So, in response to this need, an interdisciplinary research team - involving Dr Peng - from the University of Sheffield, worked with GSMA to help them develop a common index for measuring smart cities. Together, they created the first global smart city ranking.

Dr Peng added: "The GSMA initially developed a common set of 31 indicators for measuring economics, infrastructure and social benefits of mobile connected smart cities. In Sheffield, we’ve been working with the GSMA to enhance their Smart Cities Index."

"But while the concept needs to be further developed, the implications for smart living are huge. For example, a big improvement for people would be to have smart meters installed in each house. That’s just one example but it highlights how smart technology has the capacity to seriously benefit urban living."