Smart Cities makes it into the UK budget once again. But is it enough?
First published on Lexology on July 8, 2015.
Smart Cities has once again made it into official UK Treasury policy but the post-election Emergency Budget largely reinforces previously announced Government programmes aiming to support the development and take up of Smart City technologies.
The £40 million that had been ear marked for demonstrator programmes, business incubator space and a research hub to help advance Smart Cities and healthcare applications has been confirmed and there will now be a competition for a specific Smart Cities demonstrator which city, university and business collaborations will be able to bid for.
The transport benefits of Smart City technologies continue to take the limelight with the £100 million research and development fund to advance driverless vehicle technologies — previously announced in the May 2015 budget statement — confirmed. Interestingly, this driverless vehicles funding has been assigned with the express requirement that research is undertaken into the telecommunications changes needed to enable driverless vehicles to become a reality. It’s also confirmed that a “single, smart and integrated” ticketing system across the region covered by the recently formed “Transport for the North” will be included in the Northern Transport Strategy.
Connectivity improvements remain a crucial element for Smart City technology adoption and the Government has announced further aims to improve digital communications infrastructure across the UK.
Previous announcements on ultrafast broadband and mobile spectrum have been confirmed with a commitment to ensuring ultrafast broadband of at least 100 Mbps in nearly all UK premises and a £600m fund for the change of use of the 700 MHz spectrum for future 4G mobile based auctions. With many Smart City applications being controlled through users smart phone’s increased uptake and improvement in 4G connectivity will be of clear help in this area. A new commitment has also been included for the Universal Service Obligation to be raised from dial-up speeds to 5 Mbps broadband, facilitated through the use of subsidies for ultrafast satellite based systems.