Rethinking Smart Futures

Focused on people, enabled by transport, powered by technology

As the influence of digital technologies continues to grow, our cities are at a crossroads. Rapid advances in technology are coinciding with new working patterns, social attitudes and therefore transport usage.

The result? While technology brings us closer to the aspiration of a smart city providing ever more tailored and responsive services for citizens, it remains unclear how to make it a reality that works for everyone.

Together with the London Transport Museum, Thales and Gowling WLG, we held a series of roundtables where leading thinkers and decision-makers considered the vision of a smart future, and identified the challenges and opportunities facing cities today and tomorrow. Underpinning development towards a smart future is a reinvention of our transport service and the infrastructure that supports them.

The Smart Futures Vision

Successful smart places—whether cities or regions—will be about much more than new technologies. They’ll also help to address societal issues in areas like health and education. They’ll promote inclusion. They’ll embrace digital innovation. And they’ll prioritise transport as a vital enabler and underpinner of all the other benefits. Achieving these goals requires an approach that puts improving people’s lives at the heart of every decision. The successful smart cities will:

Help to address societal challenges

Assisting in addressing their citizens’ needs in every area of their lives, across work, health, housing, leisure, education, mobility and connectivity.

Have a social inclusion agenda

Social exclusion and inequality are among the biggest issues facing our cities.

Embrace digital innovation

Advances in technology are opening up exciting opportunities to tackle social challenges, environmental issues, and improve inclusion.

Develop an iconic brand

Every successful place needs to have a distinctive offer for residents, business and investors, and a credible vision for why it’s unique.

Prioritise transport

The ability to move around easily and cost-effectively encompasses many areas of people’s lives. Transport allows people to connect and is a vital enabler of a smart city.

Challenges to Realising the Vision

To date, the progress of cities around the world towards a smart future has been both gradual and uneven. To understand more about the opportunities, roadblocks, our Interchange workshops elicited views from a diverse array of experts from the transport, technology and innovation communities. Three overarching challenges emerged.

Too hard to choose

This barrier boils down to uncertainty over which technological innovations will win out – and therefore which ones are worth investing in.

Too many cooks

Creating the smart future demands active participation and collaboration from multiple organisations across the public and private sectors, often with competing interests.

One size does not fit all

Each city and region has its own priorities and timescales that reflect its specific circumstances and challenges. These differences are partly determined by the needs, expectations and socio-economic makeup of the citizens living locally.

Removing the Roadblocks - Agenda for Action

Our recommendations for overcoming the roadblocks fall into three main phases. There’s a logical order that means setting the vision for a smart city needs to come first, followed by creating a data-rich environment and then encouraging collaboration and innovation.

Set-up for Success

To guide its journey, each place must develop a shared purpose. This will become the strapline encapsulating why we should be collectively pushing for the smart future at that location.

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Creating a data-rich environment

Data underpins all systems and services that make up a smart city. Now, more data can be collected from everything from a digital railway or road, to an autonomous vehicle or e-scooter. However, many organisations may feel reluctant to share data. And individuals will only agree to their data being shared if they’re confident it’s safe. So the first step here is to gather insights into the motivations of those involved in providing transport services to inform the requirements for a future service.

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Collaborate, Innovate & Invest

It is essential to create a regulatory framework for safety, data, and interoperability to deliver on the smart future. The vital role of data in underpinning smart, personalised services in transport and other areas of people’s lives, together with the need for people to trust that their data is not open to misuse or unauthorised access, means regulation around the ownership, use and security of data is key.

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Contact us

Grant Klein

Partner, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)77 3014 6631

Ryan Charteris

Head of Transport Innovation, PwC United Kingdom

Zoe Green

Urban Planning and Development Lead, PwC United Kingdom

Ben Pykett

Director, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)7841 786 900

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