‘A Smarter London Together’: Listening Exercise for a new Smart London Plan

Smart London
Jan 23, 2018 · 20 min read

The following long read is a discussion paper drawn up by the Chief Digital Officer for London and the Smart London Board setting the scene for the development of a new Smart London plan, with a series of questions at the end. Submissions of evidence should be emailed to: smart@london.gov.uk or comments left below on this document. Look out for further information on the Smart London website.

At London Tech Week in June 2017 the Mayor set out an ambition for London to become the smartest city in the world. He has asked London’s new Chief Digital Officer and the Smart London Board to secure London’s position at the forefront of innovation in smart cities and what is known as advanced urban services. Together they are starting a Listening Exercise for a new Smart London Plan. This will result in measures for a future, inclusive London in line with mayoral strategies and the London Plan. This will build on past progress and take on board lessons learnt from smart cities in the UK and across the world.

This part of the Listening Exercise is a call to businesses, public servants, academia, civil society and practitioners for solutions to the city’s growth challenges. In today’s digital economy, data and data analytics are the fuel for future innovation in business and across London’s public services. We want to know how innovation from data can be truly mobilised by public services in partnership with London’s world class science, tech, finance and design communities. In this call, we are asking what steps can we take to shape delivery so London can become be the global home to data innovation and artificial intelligence to boost growth and help make London a better place to live, work and visit.

1.0 Background

New digital technologies that gather and use data are transforming the way people live, work and communicate. The number of connected devices whether on the person, in the home, the street or workplace is growing at a huge rate and are estimated to increase 12-fold by 2026, with mobile data usage growing at over 30% a year. Advances in the Internet of Things, machine learning and artificial intelligence carry the potential to analyse vast amounts of data allowing new solutions to the most complex urban problems.

Today London’s innovation is driven by over 40 tech and science clusters, and its leadership in the use of data across sectors and beyond. London already has more than 47,000 digital technology companies, employing approximately 240,000 people. It is forecast that the number of tech companies will increase by a third and a further 44,500 jobs will have been created by 2026.

London is a world leader in medical research, creative industries, urban design & planning, engineering, energy and transport. The application of new technologies to these disciplines with unparalleled access to investment from the financial services sector in London is creating advanced urban services which have the potential to make cities work smarter and become more productive, sustainable and liveable. This is also a potential source of growth. The market in smart city technologies in London is estimated by GLA-Arup to reach approximately $13.4 billion by 2020 in energy, transport, waste, health and water management tech.

The ubiquity of mobile, the development of cloud computing and future advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning generate a special set of circumstances for the improvement of citizen-centric city services. A new focus on data analytics sees public services entering another major phase of modernisation as new approaches to digital delivery through user-driven design, open APIs and platforms are adopted. Within public services, new business intelligence tools are using data sources for discovery, preparation, analysis and delivery of new insights to assist budget-setting. Sensors in the public realm are giving us more data about how people live, work and visit the city, and new information about air quality and energy consumption. Over half of Londoners today navigate the tubes, buses, and trains using one or more of the 600 mobile apps made using TfL’s open data. In the future, technologies like immersive virtual reality will be used to engage Londoners about how they want their city to work, and in some cases to co-design, deliver and manage city spaces and services making them more accessible, efficient and responsive to the needs of Londoners.

New technologies also promise to radically improve access to services governments provide to citizens, helping to make them more inclusive. In the near future, technologies from distributed ledgers (e.g. blockchain) to 3D modelling and immersive virtual reality can be used to deliver services in more secure, accessible, efficient and responsive ways. They can engage Londoners in how they want their city and city spaces to work, and in some cases to help councils, residents, businesses, and designers co-design, deliver and manage city spaces collaboratively.

How data and smart initiatives can help citizens

Improved public services — City budgeting focused on citizen outcomes, not departmental spending; Bringing health and social care data together for targeted care; live waste data to improve recycling rates and collection frequency; better/digitised public services lowering costs.

Public spaces — sharing of data on the local places citizens use can lead to better design of GP surgeries, schools, parks, shops, and access to sports, entertainment and culture venues during the day and at night.

More personal learning and skills — targeted learning based on personal data and a better understanding of needs and preferences, work patterns or caring responsibilities.

Participation — through civic crowdfunding for neighbourhood projects, participatory financing, community budgeting and better planning/regeneration representation on developments.

Transport reliability and options — Using tracking data from Wifi to guide new travel choices such as smart mobility, car and bicycle sharing and testing autonomous vehicles.

Energy — data on energy consumption from smart meters, if securely and privately shared, and processed alongside public data, could inform better policy making, investment and business decisions, as well as fuel the creation of more tailored and personalised services — increasing inclusion and meeting the specific aim of reducing fuel poverty.

Better public Wifi and connectivity —using public buildings and streets and parks; preparing for 5G technologies.

Personal and public health — such as using data to encourage walking and cycling and steer citizens away from air pollution hotspots; collecting health tracking data and health records with academia, boroughs, and drug manufacturers to tackle chronic diseases of Londoners such as diabetes and asthma

More reliable home and office services — in energy, broadband, water, security services; for example, sharing of energy data to allow for local energy trading/cheaper forms of local energy supply.

The possibilities allowed by technology are truly exciting, so we must put them to the test for the benefit of Londoners. London’s growth to over 11 million people by 2050 will continue to put a strain on its environmental, housing, healthcare, transport and wider infrastructure if action is not taken. Applying data and technology-driven solutions to urban services will help London to manage these pressures better.

The new plan will support the Mayor’s manifesto commitments voted for by Londoners around better digital services, open data, better connectivity, digital inclusion, cyber-security, collaboration and innovation. It will show how technology meets his new London Plan and his mayoral strategies including economic development, environment, and transport. Finally, it also ensures that London enhances its status during Brexit as a global leader for the most innovative ideas.

1.1 How we will develop the Plan

The Plan is being drawn up in 3 stages.

The first, already underway, draws on Mayoral strategies, the work of London’s public agencies, and UK and international best practice from cities like New York, Boston, Amsterdam, Paris, Berlin, and Singapore latterly through our partnership with Bloomberg Associates.

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The second phase, of which this document forms part, is a Listening Exercise to build consensus to support a shared vision of a smart, collaborative, responsive and secure approach to digital change in our city. This will involve discussing smart themes with public service stakeholders and tech community and identifying practical actions City Hall can take with its new roadmap. Along the way citizens will also be able to contribute to shaping views through our Talk London platform.

The final stage will involve development by the Smart London Board prior to launch of the Plan and Roadmap at London Tech Week in June 2018. The plan sets forward a number of themes and a series practical measures and actions to achieving them over the next four years. Projects and programmes in the plan will be ‘live’ online so citizens and stakeholders will be able to see progress and a report card will be presented every year at London Tech Week as proof-of-performance.

1.2 Smart foundations

London already has a strong track record of city leadership to build on. After New York City’s Digital Roadmap in 2011, London was one of the first cities in the world to set out its digital ambitions through a Smart London Plan in 2013. Driven by then Smart London Board Chair Professor David Gann from Imperial College London, the 2013 Plan outlined seven ways the creative power of data and technology could be used to serve London and improve Londoners’ lives. The Plan was updated in 2016, and our new Plan represents a major opportunity to refresh our approach in the light of the new Mayor’s objectives and developments in smart city thinking.

Many London boroughs have their own track record for innovation and have set out digital or smart visions. Authorities like Camden and Barking & Dagenham developing as centres of excellence for data science and citizen participation; the Royal Borough of Greenwich is home to Digital Greenwich and range of smart city pilot projects; Hackney is carrying out an exciting array of projects putting user-centred design and digital at the heart of public services such as housing. Councils are setting up shared IT services to procure and scale innovation while others still are setting out ambitious programmes with the private sector, for example London Borough of Harrow’s new vision as a ‘demonstrator authority’ with TechUK.

Examples of successful smart innovation already in use in London

Contactless payments — London’s transport network has now seen more than one billion pay-as-you-go journeys made by contactless payment cards — as the new payment option has substantially changed the way customers pay for their travel around the city. TfL’s development of contactless payments is seen by many as the catalyst for contactless being adopted more generally by consumers in the UK, and this is widely accepted as the case by the payments industry. The software that powers the contactless service was built in-house by TfL, which is what has led to the opportunity to benefit from licence sales and bring in revenue to invest in transport.

Journey times — Fuelled by London’s commitment to open data, Citymapper’s transport app is one of the most downloaded and acclaimed in the world, and is changing the face of transportation in global cities and currently it’s available in 29 cities around the world.

Body-worn cameras — The Metropolitan Police have rolled out twenty two thousand Body Worn Video Cameras to all frontline Officers, it is having a significant positive impact in terms of both officer and public confidence; enabling faster prosecutions and reduced complaints; in terms of domestic violence it has supported prosecutions where the victim has been unwilling to proceed to court.

Customers services and reporting — councils have led the development of hundreds of apps and mobile-friendly websites over the last few years enabling citizens to report concerns or make payments online — city-wide apps include reporting crime or the StreetLink app to alert services to homeless people or vulnerable residents in need of support.

Civic participation — Talk London is a space where citizens can have your say on London’s big issues of the future — on housing, the environment, transport, safety, jobs and the economy. The Crowdfund London platform run by Spacehive allows individuals and companies to pledge funds to support civic projects from parks and playgrounds to street art and festivals.This unlocks new sources of investment for regeneration projects, whilst helping communities to take the lead in improving their environment.

Health — hospitals in London are trialling a huge range of digital health solutions. Just some examples include Medopad, a mobile device to monitor heart failure patients at home, and Physitrack, offering remote, video guidance for physiotherapy patients Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust expects to save £2.5 million each year by reducing missed appointments through DrDoctor’s appointment booking app, resulting in ‘no show’ rates falling by 40%. The London Ambulance Service has adopted Perfect Ward, cutting out medicines paperwork for faster ambulance care, that are now being implemented across over 70 ambulance stations in the capital.

We want to ensure that London is the best connected city in Europe, where affordable superfast connections are available to homes and small businesses. The Mayor is tackling London’s areas of poor connectivity by appointing a ‘not spot’ team; committing to connectivity in the tube; large-scale free wifi in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and elsewhere, and promoting wayleave agreements that make room for broadband cables and cellular masts. The London Grid for Learning is an important London-wide resource which manages a contract for all London’s schools for broadband connections, common learning platforms, online content and support services.

There have also been a host of pan-London initiatives to scale bleeding edge solutions and share data and procurement power. London Ventures is a joint partnership between EY and London Councils bringing together all 32 London boroughs and the City of London with private and third sector ideas. Products, services and solutions developed by London Ventures, for example the Anti-Fraud Hub, all aim to deliver significant benefits for London residents and use technology to reduce costs and improve the effectiveness and efficiency of public services. DigitalHealth.London’s Accelerator programme, in collaboration with the London Academic Health Science Networks and in partnership with Medcity, is committed to working with at least 80 high potential digital health SMEs over the next 3 years to help more Londoners improve their health and wellbeing.

The capital is also racing ahead with new technologies, using it for ticketing and contactless on the transport network, while the London Datastore is an open resource with vast amounts of data about all areas of the city, and tech start-ups have used this open data to create innovative new apps. The Datastore provides over 700 datasets on many different aspects of London’s economy and society. It is widely used by nearly 70,000 citizens, businesses, researchers and developers each month. Today more than more than 80 data feeds now available for developers through the free unified API, which ensures accurate real-time data is available from one system for over 13,000 developers. The provision of free, accurate and real-time open data by TfL was estimated by Deloitte to help London’s economy by up to £130m a year.

1.3 GovTech and working with the business community

It is vital we enable the tech sector to engage with public services and users to understand the pressures London is facing and innovate with data to identify solutions. The Mayor’s draft Economic Development Strategy sets the basis for engagement with the tech and wider business community, namely to identify key social, economic and environmental challenges and call on London’s entrepreneurs to innovate with data and technology to help solve them.

The strategy signals our intention to develop further measures, including:

Using the London Plan to enable smart technology to be incorporated into new developments and infrastructure.

Enabling common standards and open approaches to data and procurement for digital services enabling products and services to scale.

Making data safer and able to be used more effectively by better data sharing, and personal- or cyber- security.

The Mayor has pledged to support investment in urban demonstrators to showcase digital technologies across the city, and work with London boroughs and investors to bring these to market for the benefit of Londoners. This year the Mayor will pilot his Civic Innovation Challenge, a mission-led open call from the GLA Family to firms to solve some of the big problems facing London with tech and data-driven solutions and user-led design. The Mayor will fund proof-of-concept projects to help address the needs of London’s ageing population, environment and inequality.

The Mayor is harnessing London’s huge capacity and business talent for financing and investment in digital technologies to make London a smarter city. The London Co-Investment Fund is an early-stage tech fund has put more than £100m into the capital’s startup scene. City Hall has been commissioned by the European Investment Bank to research the financial instructions needed for smart cities, environmental and regeneration projects. Our TechInvest partnership with the UK Business Angels Association finds tech companies with the potential to scale and truly catapult London globally in artificial intelligence, augmented reality, video games, cleantech and GovTech.

Finally, the GLA aims to work specifically with and support GovTech- and CivTech- incubators in the public and private sectors to bring the best ideas to market in digital public services, helping London’s residents and businesses to access and use public services and information more easily.

1.4 City-wide government and Smart London

How London government functions between City Hall and borough town halls differs from that of other major global cities, which requires our approach to smart to reflect the specific needs of the capital and dynamics of the UK system of local government. This system is in the process of changing, and devolution presents an opportunity not just in London, but in concert with Metro-Mayors, to provide strategic digital leadership in place of fragmentation.

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The Mayor of London and Greater London Authority exercise strong pan-London powers set out in statutory strategies covering arts & culture, business and the economy; environment; fire; health; housing and land; planning; policing and crime; regeneration; sport; transport, and young people. Other priorities include higher education, foreign investment and attracting high-profile conferences to London.

While these strategies represent levers for Smart London for London-wide action in concert with the boroughs, chief powers include the planning framework (the new London Plan) and delivery agencies. The Mayor is responsible for major delivery agencies such as Transport for London (TfL), London Fire Brigade (LFEPA) and the Metropolitan Police (MOPAC) and, most recently, Skills for Londoners and health devolution.

A very significant amount of data is collected and processed through a wide array of technology systems and services by the GLA, London’s local authorities, the NHS and other public bodies but not always on a consistent or computable basis, making it hard to analyse and use to greatest effect. At a local level, London’s 33 borough councils are responsible for the delivery of public services from housing and waste collection through to libraries and social care. Council and other city services operate many hundreds of public-facing lines-of-business and supported by a significant investment in technology and, increasingly, in data capability.

A growing world city like London also requires modern infrastructure including water, flood protection and drainage infrastructure, waste, energy, and digital connectivity. Increased collaboration and cooperation is needed to meet the Mayor’s goals of cheaper and more inclusive provision of services, from lower energy bills through smart energy meters to access to the public sector estate for digital connectivity infrastructure.

1.5 Next steps in smart cities thinking

Since the concept of a smart city was popularised around the start of the decade, there has been a shift in thinking as cities learn lessons from adoption. What started as the digital transformation of big urban systems (transport, energy, water) by technology companies, is now seen developing more citizen-centric services, with an emphasis on design, data-sharing, cyber resilience and more distributed sources of innovation.

A recent report by the UK’s Future Cities Catapult considered smart progress in 21 cities globally and took stock with a set of practical recommendations:

1.Local governments often lack the capacity to understand, develop and implement smart city strategies. An innovation of this kind requires upskilling and support from senior leadership.

2.To ensure that smart city strategies are implemented they need to be embedded in statutory frameworks and plans.

3. Many cities have made fast progress through top-down leadership, but for a smart city that is adopted by people and therefore impactful, a collaborative approach is required. This means collaboration with all stakeholders (businesses, government departments, universities and with citizens).

4. Most smart city funding is still derived from innovation pots and not linked to core city funding. Making this transition will allow scale up.

5. Many city governments see the opportunity to attract private sector investment. But they do not create good processes for managing engagement with the private sector. Smart city leads should consider how to give clarity to potential private sector partners.

Scaling smart solutions for Londoners involves a strong commitment to collaboration between City Hall, public agencies, utilities and town halls, and with London’s tech sector. How London’s many constituent elements work together to be ‘greater than the sum of our parts’ through better data sharing, mobilising assets for better connectivity, adopting common standards or approaches to new technologies and cyber-resilience is more critical than ever for city administration. To this end the Mayor is exploring the creation of a London Office for Technology & Innovation — a new collaboration function between boroughs and London Councils, and potentially other public services in 2018. It also involves a new approach to workforce digital skills and the kind of public service workforce we have over the next decade, as illustrated by TfL’s Project 2030 drive.

Although London’s public services face similar challenges meeting the needs of citizens, their approach to change, the adaptability of their technology estate and the way they treat and use data not only differs but in many cases actually remains underused — or even undiscovered. London needs more understanding about digital maturity, including who is doing what; what works effectively; how change is led, and how innovation is incubated, adopted and scaled.

Here the creation of strategic support in the Chief Digital Officer at City Hall represents the beginning of more solid foundations for progress across the city.

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2.0 Engagement

To start our new phase of thinking about smart cities, the Smart London Board has developed a definition which emphasises the importance of data, the need to meet city-growth pressures, and to do so collaboratively.

Smarter London: working definition

A ‘Smarter London’ uses data and technology together for the good growth of our city. It mobilises the power of data as the fuel for innovation to design and develop safe, open and inclusive solutions for Londoners over the next decade and beyond.

To stay ahead of the technology curve, rather than follow it, a Smarter London needs new city-wide collaboration between public institutions, utilities, our world-class creative, scientific research and tech communities by and for Londoners.

The Board has identified five workstreams to enable London to become a smarter city:

  1. City-wide collaboration & innovation
  2. A new deal for city data
  3. World-class connectivity
  4. Digital capability & skills
  5. Openness & responsible tech

The questions below are a guide only and aimed at practitioners from business, technology, academia, civil society and citizen-practitioners and users. In addition to your thinking about London’s challenges and ambitions, we ask you provide details of practical approaches or measures which, in your particular experience, the Mayor, boroughs, and public services,the tech and wider business community should commit to.

2.1 City-wide collaboration & innovation

Innovation and transformational change occurs when different sectors collaborate, so it is important that sectors are not considered in isolation. The Mayor can help to provide the spaces, infrastructure and the right incentives for different sectors to work side-by-side, and use his power of convening to bring the right partners together. The Mayor wants collaboration not just across different sectors and disciplines within London, but between London and other cities in the UK and across the world. Currently in many cases the rate of progress is slow, innovators and change-makers can feel isolated, the same problems are being solved many times, and it is hard for organisations to learn from each other and collaborate to develop standards, design patterns and common procurement and other supportive frameworks. As the Mayor and London Councils are investigating a new support for pan-London collaboration between the tech sector and public services:

What is your experience of developing or scaling innovative services with London’s government and public agencies? What challenges have you encountered? What solutions suggest support collaboration between the tech sector and public services better?

2.2 A new deal for city data

Data and digital technologies are a key and increasingly vital component of London’s economy, and its public realm. Data produced by public and private sources provide a huge pool of resources that can be used to better plan and deliver public services, and support investment in better urban planning and infrastructure provision. London and its boroughs need more explicit city data and technology policies to plan a 21st century city for Londoners and businesses. At the same time public awareness, concern, and questions about the collection and use of personal data by the private sector, and cyber security, are growing. How public and private organisations respond to new General Data Protection Rules is an ideal opportunity to have an open discussion about the public benefits of data in our city:

How do we ambitiously push city-wide data partnerships, architecture, and standards for effective and safe data sharing and use of new technologies to meet citizen needs and promote good growth? How can we ensure the foundations of trust in the collection and use of data from both public and private sector?

2.3 World-class connectivity

The draft London Plan states for the first time that the provision of digital infrastructure is as important for the proper functioning of the city as energy, water and waste management services and should be treated with the same importance. We believe London should be a world-leading tech hub with world-class digital connectivity that can anticipate growing capacity needs and serve hard to reach areas. Sharing data between infrastructure owners — TfL, utilities, buildings — will help connectivity providers build their networks more cheaply and easily — and Londoners will be disrupted less often by building and streetworks. Fast, reliable digital connectivity is essential in today’s economy and especially for the digital transformation of public services. These services support aspect of how people work and take part in modern society, helps smart innovation and facilitates regeneration. Digital connectivity supports smart technologies in terms of the collection, analysis and sharing of data on the performance of the built and natural environment, including for example, water and energy consumption, air quality, noise and congestion.

What costs will our public services incur if we do not have more universal broadband (fixed and mobile) access as they do more online? What opportunities for our tech sector to help digital public services be a success will be missed?

How can we share data better about our tunnels, ducts, streets and buildings with broadband and mobile network providers?

2.4 Digital skills & capability

London needs to equip our citizens with the digital skills, understanding and capabilities they need at all levels, from primary school to organisational leadership. The Mayor of London’s new responsibility for skills will need to ensure young people are digital citizens and get the right skills to fill digital, creative and technology occupations needed by every sector of London’s economy, and the GLA will shortly be launching a new Digital Talent Programme. Better digital leadership at all levels of public services will be required to lead the changes necessary, including in transformation, cyber-security and data. The new Apprenticeship Levy presents further a opportunity to upskill entry-level and skilled workers. City services will need to refresh our approach to digital inclusion as services become more smartphone-friendly but those who remain excluded need face-to-face assistance through a better digitally-enabled workforce.

How can better data help London improve digital skills at all levels and what steps do we need to undertake? How do we make the most of the new Apprenticeship Levy to support digital capability at all levels?

2.5 Openness & responsible tech

Open data, transparent government and inclusiveness are critical to our future vision. Given the ubiquity of technology in citizens’ lives cities have a role to play in promoting responsible technology: the concept that innovation does not knowingly deepen existing vulnerabilities and inequalities, or create new ones. Digital services, whether created or provided by the public or private sector, should be responsive to diversity and inclusion both in workforce representation and users’ needs. We should develop new ways to ensure the public are able to understand and experience new technologies and services in ‘beta’ phase so people can bring about the changes they want in the digital world. This means better approaches to design and digital understanding.

How can we best ensure digital services are designed with citizen needs and diversity at their very heart? How do we promote greater digital understanding?

2.6 How to respond

We’ve published this on Medium so you can comment online, in the text or below. Those making submissions are asked not to exceed 5 pages in length. We encourage experience submitted in the form of projects or case-studies.

Submissions should be emailed to: smart@london.gov.uk by the end of March 2018.

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Further Reading

Future of Smart (2016 update of the 2013 Smart London Plan) and Smart City Opportunities for London https://www.london.gov.uk/what-we-do/business-and-economy/supporting-londons-sectors/smart-london/future-smart

Draft London Plan (Consultation open until 2 March 2018)


Draft Economic Development Strategy (Consultation open until 13 March 2018)


Draft Transport Strategy


Draft Environment Strategy


Draft Housing Strategy


Draft Health Inequalities Strategy


Draft Diversity and Inclusion Strategy


Draft Culture Strategy — to be published

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