A group of people at the Smart Cities event sitting around tables

Move over ‘Smart Cities’ make way for a ‘Smart Kent’

Hats off to Kent Connects for a great Smart Cities conference! The excellent collection of speakers helped us to understand how the Smart City agenda is relevant to local authorities and how we at SDS can get involved.

Lost in translation

The term Smart Cities has become slightly lost in translation over the last few years as it has made its way out of big cities such as Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Barcelona. There are many different definitions of ‘Smart Cities’ but for us and colleagues at the conference being a ‘Smart Community’ boiled down to using data and technology to make life better for people.

Some great examples brought this to life:

Preventing falls: Brian Brown from H.A.S. Technology explained how ARMED (Advanced Risk Modelling for Early Detection) can help prevent falls in the home. This focuses on pulling together key metrics associated with frailty and risk of falling, such as low grip strength, muscle mass, hydration levels, low heart rate and heart rate variability. These can easily be monitored and measured from an individual’s own home using the latest wearable technologies (think fitbits). Trials have shown that warning flags are being raised in advance of a potential fall, allowing for early intervention and appropriate support.

elderly woman at home by herself

Improving road safety: Kent Highways and partners have won an ADEPT funding bid to develop a data led management system that should help make our roads safer. This system will gather data from a variety of sources including vehicle and highways data, sensors on the road and CCTV. This intelligence-led approach will be used for things such as better predictions of where pot holes are likely to occur, better knowledge of roads likely to freeze and better risk profiling. This means pot holes can be prevented, gritting can be more effective and safety schemes can be prioritised on dynamic risk levels rather than number of actual crashes.

gritting lorry spreading salt in the snow

Catching mice: Peter Karney from Digital Catapult’s Innovation Team shared with the conference several different smart products ranging from a parking sensor to a mousetrap. He explained how previously mousetraps had to be checked regularly by a pest control service, involving many trips back and forth from the service the mouse infested site. Now sensors in the traps can alert the service to when they have been triggered saving that service energy, time and money.

digitally sensored mouse trap

These examples illustrate how using the data generated by technologies embedded in objects (also known as the ‘internet of things’) local authorities could start to be more proactive and improve outcomes for residents (not mice).

Building a Smart Kent

Smart technologies could well provide solutions for local authorities having to deliver services under increasing financial, social and environmental pressure. But to succeed local authorities will need to work in collaboration with the businesses that can develop the technologies and the communities that will be using them.

The feeling at the end of the conference was that we need to start doing this at a local level and we at SDS are here to help. Whether that be analysing data to identify issues, convening partnerships to get projects off the ground or testing potential solutions with residents. Never mind ‘Smart Cities’, we want to build a ‘Smart Kent’ so please do get in touch.