The Smart Cities Imperative – An Interview
- We oftentimes talk about “innovation” as an overarching theme, but it seems that practical uses for innovative thinking run the gamut from transportation to sustainability and beyond. Your team recently published an article about “beating the energy performance gap” in residential real estate endeavors. What can you tell us about this new toolkit? And, does it have uses beyond residential building?
BEPIT combines detailed learning materials with in-depth facilitation by an expert through each stage of the housebuilding project – design, procurement and construction. The toolkit sets out a plan for working in detail with all of the key players involved in the housing project, to alert them to the various problems at the right time and help to overcome them throughout the construction process. Most of the materials (and experience) will be relevant to non-residential developments so it application could be far reaching, providing innovative technologies and occupant needs are fully integrated into the building design from an early stage.
- The UK and US have begun to experiment with free charging and Wi-Fi, especially in hubs like London and New York. Are there concerns that privacy and data could be breeched? How can cities combat such threats given increases in opportunities for digital connectivity?
As connectivity leads to improvements in our quality of life, we need to be sure that a joined-up approach is taken to address concerns about integrated services and safety, security and privacy. We believe combating threats will require collaboration across the security industry, governments, business and education to nurture standards, best practice and innovation across smart cities. The UK and the US are frontrunners for the best countries in the world in this regard at present but it will require an on-going collaborative approach to secure a resilient connected future. Cybersecurity will become the most essential enabler for the development of modern living and having appropriate controls in place will free us up to enjoy the hugely exciting benefits that connected living brings.
- One of the most positive applications of technological innovation is the creation of a more efficient work environment. How is a modernized workforce adapting to automation technologies?
By focusing on how to use these technologies to amplify and enhance human capabilities to liberate them from more mundane tasks so that they can focus on the higher-value functions that led them to choose their particular careers. This requires a renewed and sustained focus on training – it has always been the case that maximizing productivity means having the right people with the right training using the right “kit” – this is even more profoundly the case when the kit in question includes advanced automation and A.I.
- A big adjustment companies are making to simultaneously reduce costs, and their collective carbon footprint, is introducing “agility” to their organizational structure and culture. Is there a competitive advantage to introduce this strategy?
For the right organization, This is because many of the brightest and best twenty-first century workers will demand work that’s agile enough to allow them to integrate family life more easily; pursue passions outside of work more fully and/or develop increasingly diverse portfolio careers. But organizations should train their managers so that they have the skills and awareness needed to manage teams of remote workers so that the organization preserves its culture and so that geographically dispersed teams retain their team spirit.
- From transportation to lodging, the sharing economy has given origin to a new crop of entrepreneur and business model. What industry is slated for disruption next?
Energy is perhaps the next industry to feel the full impact of the disrupt potential of new ways of doing things. The recent consultation response from BEIS and Ofgem Upgrading Our Energy System Smart Systems and Flexibility Plan gives an indication of the change which may come. This is however a view of the known unknowns from a centralized body – what could be really interesting are those things which come completely from the left field to change the whole foundation on which the industry operates. Far-fetched, maybe, but other industries have seen it and there is a lot happening quietly in the background at the moment.
- Finally, how can the US and the UK cooperate in creating a more innovative, transatlantic business environment?
The US and UK are two of the most innovative economies in the world and by collaborating they can each benefit from the respective approaches. As similar ecosystems of innovation, both countries are testing new approaches to solve these overreaching issues and sharing best practices enables both countries to implement the most effective approaches. Further aligning the policy and regulatory environments to create a framework that can work on both sides of the Atlantic would further enhance the opportunities for collaborative innovation.