Smart cities: bringing science fiction to Scotland’s high streets

You may have heard of Smart Cities as a concept, but for many it remains frustratingly vague. Simply put, it’s about combining technology and information to improve people’s lives and local services. For example, think of Edinburgh as a massive orchestra, and instead of different instruments, you have various sensors. From traffic lights and post boxes, to lampposts, bridges and pavements – all of them connected, and all of them working in symphony.

It’s likely that, in the very near future, you could see smart technology become ubiquitous in Edinburgh. In our homes right now many of us have voice-activated devices, lightbulbs intelligent enough to switch off when they aren’t needed, and almost all of us are tethered to our smartphone. In time we will start to see a similar proliferation of smart devices in our local communities.

Of course, if we are suddenly going to be ramping up the amount of data cities are producing and capturing, we need to make sure the infrastructure is in place to handle it.

This is where future proof full fibre networks come into play. These networks – like the ones CityFibre is building across not only Edinburgh but other Scottish cities, including Aberdeen, Dundee, Inverness and Stirling, as well as the Glasgow City Region – can deal with vast amounts of data. Currently, full fibre is currently available to less than 16 per cent of premises across the UK – instead, the country is reliant on legacy networks built on copper dating back decades.

It is here where the UK is falling behind as the rest of continental Europe, which is way ahead in establishing full fibre networks. But this is changing and most within the telecoms industry are working toward rolling out a full fibre network to the UK by 2025.

When that happens, Scotland and the rest of the UK will go from digital laggard to leader and will be able to further embrace smart city technology because they will have a network capable of handling the massive amount of data it needs to work.

There is a long way to go, but the case for building smarter cities is compelling. While installing the devices needed and laying the essential infrastructure required will be a challenge, a smarter more connected Scotland will drive benefits for everyone.