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Smart city technology must extend to all corners of the UK, from cities to villages to rural communities

Smart city technology must extend to all corners of the UK, from cities to villages to rural communities
3 min read

SNP MP Dr Lisa Cameron writes following her House of Commons Adjournment debate on Smart cities: “Innovation is happening now, and it is time to commit ourselves to what could be the next industrial revolution".

The thought of streets full of self-driving cars in London seems more like a futuristic dream than a current reality. This is especially true on the clogged streets of Westminster, where traffic and high levels of congestion seem ever present.

Autonomous vehicles and other similar innovations we once imagined as part of a far away future are no longer distant. They are the reality of labs and pilot programs and soon, they will be reality for cities around the world. In some places, this next-level technology has already come to life.

During my recent visit to the United States with the British-American Parliamentary Group, I visited midwestern cities where these cutting edge innovations are already being implemented and the benefits have already been felt. On the streets of Chicago, lampposts equipped with sensors can detect gunshots and alert the police within seconds, increasing the likelihood of catching perpetrators and bringing immediate medical services to those who may have been harmed. In South Bend, sensors in the sewer system have greatly reduced expenses by regulating the flow through the pipes and thereby decreasing flooding and the need for new infrastructure.

These “Smart Cities” are utilizing 5G technology to meaningfully utilize data and vastly increase interconnectedness and information sharing. The time has come for the United Kingdom to get ahead of the curve to implement smart city technology and bring these benefits to fruition.

Multi-functional vehicles, like those being piloted by Innovation Hub Space10, allow instant doctor-patient contact in ambulances via 5G. This instant form of feedback would allow for collaboration between emergency responders and doctors across the UK, and possibly even throughout the world.

London would naturally be a massive beneficiary of smart city technology and likely the first place it would be piloted. But our country’s smart city movement cannot be limited to London or even England. This smart city technology must extend to all corners of the UK, from cities to villages to rural communities, to ensure that all of our citizens are reaping the benefits of these advances.

Although we need to apply this mentality universally, its application will not look the same in each individual constituency. We will need to adapt our solutions to the region they will serve. Robotic cow milking as is being piloted in dairy farms in England, for example, may be a fitting investment for some of our rural areas. There is no limit to the innovations that can be made.

The work has already begun. The UK Government has committed to boosting the country’s research and development spending to 2.4% of its GDP. Millions of investment dollars have already gone towards robotics, mobility, and the transforming cities fund. This is a solid beginning, but we need to go further.

Bringing these advances into our communities goes beyond having the newest and flashiest technology - it is our obligation as part of a continual mission to put the best possible systems in place in hopes of creating the best possible quality of life for UK citizens. We must ensure adequate regulation of this technology and the data collected and include citizens in every part of the adoption of technology moving forward. Innovation is happening now, and it is time to commit ourselves to what could be the next industrial revolution.

Dr Lisa Cameron is the SNP MP for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow. She is SNP spokesperson for Mental Health.

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