The Slovenia Times

Resilient Cities: Between digital and physical world


Are Slovenian cities prepared for unexpected events?

At the conference, Nevenka Cukjati, General Director of the SRIP Cities and Communities Operation, stated a concern; we often think about our cities' responsiveness to unexpected events only when it is too late. To ensure security, cities need to seek new measures and solutions, and take advantage of all opportunities that information and communication technology (ICT) have to offer. "Connecting and creating synergies between cities, municipalities and the state is essential in achieving and ensuring resilience in case of unexpected events. Understanding and designing the Smart Cities and Communities Strategy should become the fundamental direction and a guide of all subsequent governmental processes. Cities, municipalities, companies, public research institutes and universities, and all SRIP PMiS members are aware of the need for further activities and the related coordinated action in the field of European and Slovenian smart specialisation strategy," she explained. 

Oliver Usher, NESTA, UK: Flying High - a collaborative approach to shaping the future of drones and cities

Drones are still an emerging technology, but we can already think of the services they could be able to provide, like emergency responses or transporting goods. Olivier Usher is Research & Impact Lead at Nesta Challenges, part of Nesta, the UK's innovation foundation.



Cars had an enormous transformative effect on our society century ago. Do you believe that drones would affect our society, infrastructure and regulation to the same extent as cars did in the past or even more? 

The future of drones might end up looking like the future of cars and cities - it could be very transformational. We could see the technology rolling out on a very large scale and really changing the way we live in cities. Equally, it might not. There is another extreme where the public has scepticism about drones, pushes back and we only see certain, quite critical, niche services delivered by drones. My view is that we will probably land somewhere between those two extremes because exactly where we land really depends on politics, policy and economics, as well as on what we want to see as citizens, more than it does on the development of the technology itself. 

You mentioned different cases of use in the health sector. What would be the most important benefits drones could bring to the health sector in the future?

The Flying High project, a project with five UK cities, explores three different use cases which will potentially have quite a significant impact on the health sector and on people's healthy lives. The first one of those is around emergency response drones. That is, for example, a drone flying to the site of a car accident or a fire to get immediate situation awareness to first responders who arrive at the scene. This has potentially quite a profound impact on how quickly people get sent to a hospital or how quick the response is sent to the incident site. The other two we looked at were on logistics in the medical sector. For example, transporting supplies such as blood or samples. There are two very different ways that could play out and they are potentially complementary. One of them is around the way medical logistics work within cities. We are talking about short distance transport to potentially quite high value medical items or urgent medical items. Drones might fly between city centre hospitals which are perhaps a few kilometres away and they can hop over the traffic as well as do things quicker. This also potentially unlocks broader change in the way the medical logistics system works. It might allow you to centralise pathology laboratories in one location in the city for potential productivity gains or changes in efficiency of service. The other case we looked at was in the context of more remote communities. We worked with Southampton, a city on the south coast of England that faces the channel to the Isle of Wight, a quite heavily populated island which doesn't have a bridge going to it. There, the local health services are quite excited about the possibility of using much heavier cargo drones to transport larger volumes of medical items on a more scheduled service between hospitals on the mainland and the hospitals on the island. This potentially unlocks delivery of quite critical medical items to remote communities that currently might not have as good medical services as city centres do. 

What would be the first step to be taken by our governments for the real change to begin?

It's a lot about testing and building the evidence base and about demonstrating. That does two things. If we give companies that want to try out some of these socially beneficial drone use cases, an opportunity to test and demonstrate their services, then, first of all, they can build up their technology, service and demonstrate for the purposes of getting regulatory approval that their service is safe. At the same time, you can build public visibility of what you're doing and show that it's not actually terrifying. Providing this kind of an experimental environment is something that governments can really do. 

Allan Mayo, UK: Developing Smart, Sustainable and Resilient Cities: the integrated Greenwich Approach

As a civil servant at the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), Allan was responsible developing the UK Government's smart city strategy which was published in October 2013, and gave support to BSI to develop the first suite of smart city standards. He joined Digital Greenwich to help develop the Borough's Smart City Strategy which was launched on 22 October 2015. 



What are the foundations of a "Smart City"?

The foundation of a smart city are the people and making sure that everybody has access to digital technology and has the skills to access digital services. Digital skills and digital connectivity are fundamental. However, we often put too much focus on the digital - it is the design of a city that makes for a smart city. We should design cities in a way which we call a "20 minute city" which means that you can get anywhere you like in 20 minutes without getting in a car. On the other hand, cities have to uplift their spirit. A city is not smart if it's drab concrete block after block. In China, for example, there are lots of smart cities, but nobody wants to live there. It's about the quality of design and designing the city for the flaneur, the stroller. This means that you walk through the city and suddenly see a wonderful new area and it uplifts the spirits. In my opinion, it's a combination of architecture, design and the digital technology which together will make for a smart city. 

What are the results of your Greenwich Smart City strategy so far?

In the first instance, we are building the city or building this borough. In a way it is still an experiment. We recognised two or three very important themes. One I mentioned is transport. We are building an autonomous vehicle testbed to understand better how autonomous vehicles might become the Uber of tomorrow. This is in the process of being built so there aren't any results yet, except for that we know from our survey with the residents that they are very interested in this and they see it as something exciting for Greenwich. The second big experiment is around the Sharing Cities European project where we're bringing in renewable energy, a water source heat pump from the Thames, and linking that to citizens in council blocks, in social housing with refurbishment of these blocks, making them more energy efficient, putting in smart grids and smart sensors to manage the energy. Also, then, linking that with electric vehicle charging, electric bikes and trying to understand how all this data can come together in a way which improves the energy efficiency of the entire community. That is underway, so there are only preliminary results. The third main theme of our strategy is about digital connectivity itself. The future will lie with fibre, fibre to the premises as the basis for accessing broadband. Everybody talks about 4G or 5G, but it's not just antennas, it's also the backhaul of that data to the data centre that needs fibre. That is being planned, the strategy is there, the council is just about to decide the way forward on that. These are just three examples of how we're taking forward in a very ambitious way: autonomous vehicles, integration of data, fibre to the premises.


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