How Glasgow’s smart city investments play out in the games

Glasgow CommonwealthAs the Commonwealth Games get under way in Glasgow this week, visitors to the city should note not just the sporting venues, but also the work that’s happening through Glasgow’s Smart City initiatives. Glasgow has taken advantage of the opportunities available from the EU and from hosting the Games to ensure that there is a lasting legacy for the people of the city, especially in the more deprived areas of the city, characterised by real poverty and disadvantage.

Glasgow is part of the STEP-UP initiative (Strategies Towards Energy Performance and Urban Planning), and has three projects which give it credentials as a ‘Lighthouse’, or large-scale demonstrator/first-of-a-kind community. These are the Future Cities Demonstrator, the Commonwealth Games Athletes’ Village and the Clyde Waterfront.

Future Cities Demonstrator

The Future Cities Demonstrator project, known as the Technology Strategy Board, has been running since January 2013, and is due to complete in August this year. It’s funded and operated by the UK government, and brings together public, private and academic partners to improve the day-to-day life in the city. The idea is to integrate technology and applications in public safety, transport, health, technology and sustainable energy.

A state-of-the-art integrated Operations Centre has been created to monitor and control the city’s network of CCTV cameras. It will also control the traffic lights and traffic cameras. A new City Technology Platform will bring together data streams from across the city, and analyse and present the data in a way that will be usable by public, businesses and academia. Data will be available through websites and smartphone apps, including the MyGlasgow dashboard.

There are also a range of smaller demonstrator projects running, which include:

  • Energy projects, covering demand side management, energy modelling, the real-time impact of insulation on homes, renewable energy opportunity mapping and behavioural change.
  • The use of intelligent street lighting in two demonstrator areas of the city to improve safety.
  • Encouraging the use of cycling and walking to improve health, by the use of open data and smart phone and tablet apps. Cyclists and pedestrians have been encouraged to provide data to help improve the infrastructure for the future.
  • Increasing the efficiency of public transport in the city by integrating mobile technologies.

There have been several key elements to getting the project up and running. First, there has been strong political leadership, with the Leader of the City Council supporting the project from the beginning. The project has strong stakeholder engagement and dialogue, and has been designed to address specific problems that cut across city life, from safety, to health and transport.

The Commonwealth Games Athletes’ Village

But the Smart Cities Demonstrator is not all that’s going on. Alongside that, the athletes’ village for the Commonwealth Games has been used to kick-start regeneration in Glasgow’s East End, a very deprived area of the city. Not only has the city taken a new approach to sustainable housing, but it also aims to reduce fuel poverty and create more affordable heating options for the residents. In fact, this regeneration is a key part of Glasgow’s political commitment to a 30% carbon reduction target by 2020.

From a run-down brownfield site, the Village now consists of 700 new homes, with a local district heating system, housed in a purpose-built Energy Centre. Once the athletes have departed, the accommodation will house both private and social housing residents. Designed to be family- and pedestrian-friendly, the area also has state-of-the-art ICT, and hopes to be a model for other areas across the UK and Europe.

The Clyde Waterfront

The final Lighthouse Initiative in Glasgow is the Clyde Waterfront, a massive regeneration of over 20km of rundown waterfront area. It’s ambitious in its scope, covering over 250 projects including a brand-new hospital due for completion in 2015, which will be one of the biggest in Europe, and a new transport system. This will use rapid-transit energy-efficient buses to serve areas which are currently hard to reach by public transport.

Using big events to drive progress for ordinary people

Glasgow is proof that it’s possible to achieve sustainable redevelopment through long-term political commitment and funding, matched with private sector partnership. It’s good to see cities using big international events to drive solutions for their populations. Glasgow’s East End residents will be the beneficiaries of the energy project that would probably never have happened without the Commonwealth Games. And although redevelopment is a long-term project, the political will to succeed is clearly there, driving sustainable change for the future.

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