- Project plans
- Project activities
- Legislation and standards
- Industry context
Last edited 12 Jan 2018
How to make the digital revolution a success
A joint ICE Thinks/Smart Energy GB breakfast roundtable was held at ICE HQ to discuss how to make the digital revolution a success and really engage the public in smart infrastructure.
The discussion was framed by ICE President Tim Broyd’s Presidential Address, Engineering a Digital Future, the lessons learned from the national smart meter rollout and Smart Energy GB’s REAL Ratio white paper, and the way that cities like Bristol deliver their digital transformation agenda.
(As it was held under the Chatham House Rule, this is a non-attributable summary of the key issues raised.)
 A smarter overall agenda
Technology can make cities more resilient, efficient, affordable and liveable. Stakeholders involved with shaping and driving the smart city revolution have a responsibility to ensure that digital technology transforms the way the UK designs and delivers infrastructure while at the same time improving people’s lives.
Smart infrastructure should be designed in way that is relevant to the lives of the citizen. Policymakers and industry need to then engage them in understanding how it transforms the often mundane challenges of everyday life.
The approach to the smart meter rollout has been built around creating empathy with the current consumer experience and explaining how that can change, delivering long-term behaviour change. Its campaign that’s inclusive and allows us to speak to everyone while working through advocates and trusted voices.
Cities like Bristol have adopted a citizen-focused model for smart cities, with citizens helping to be part of the experiment – creating a ‘living laboratory’.
 Engagement and trust is key
Adding value to everyday life is the goal and a smart city should seek to be engaging, communicable and designed for its citizens. It’s what we call ‘liveability’ – arguably one of the benefits of smart technology that speaks most to people.
The next step now is for industry and policymakers to agree which policies are achievable.
By educating people about the ultimate aim of technology like smart meters we are more likely to secure consumer acceptance, trust and confidence. This will require engagement at grassroots level to find out what issues people want to address through technology. In particular, technology has to be usable for the older generation.
There is also an argument to be made for more automated products that don’t require people to proactively engage. Ease and effortlessness when rolling out any new technology helps improve attitudes towards it.
However, if smart technology saves people money then why should they need to be encouraged or driven towards accepting it in their home? Why are individuals being asked to be more altruistic than companies? Trust is a key issue here.
A distinction also needs to be made between consumers and citizens. Consumers implies a more transactional relationship.
 Data and integration
The current narrative around a lot of technology is negative. It is frequently associated with security breaches, job losses and confusing complexity. There is a lack of public understanding and access to real data. Yet personal data is at the heart of changing technology. Data is beginning to excel physical infrastructure in terms of value, yet the value of that data is still unrealised.
For example, for a city council, data on healthcare would ensure early intervention and help reduce costs.
The UK rail network and the train time app was cited as a good example of an ‘open data’ strategy. However, there is as yet no standard way of structuring the data. Lessons need to be drawn from existing technology and a systems approach adopted.
Could a water meter roll-out draw on the same technology as the smart meter rollout and ensure integration between the two, rather than having to use bespoke technology each time?
ICE’s forthcoming State of the Nation: Digital Transformation report will explore how we use both data and technology in the design, construction, use, maintenance and decommissioning of our infrastructure.
This article was originally published here by ICE on 27 Feb 2017. It was written by Jo Gonet.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Articles by ICE on Designing Buildings Wiki.
- Constructing Excellence annual conference 2017.
- Designing smart cities.
- Digital Built Britain.
- Digital transformation - engineers need to keep pace.
- Engineering Smart Cities.
- Global smart cities market.
- How to gain a competitive edge with digital technologies.
- Measuring the success of smart cities.
- Open data.
- Smart technology.
- State of the nation: Digital transformation.
- The convergence of technology and infrastructure sectors.
- This is what makes your city better.
- UK Digital Strategy.
Featured articles and news
Reports emerge of injuries caused by Apple employees colliding with the campus' glazed walls.
The winners of NIC's ideas competition on transforming the Cambridge to Oxford arc discuss their concept.
Create new habitats and improve air quality and wellbeing.
New report provides 12 key actions which could close the structural talent gap in the construction industry.
These can be used to find out whether a proposed development is likely to be approved. Read more here.
Studying a built environment degree? Check out our helpful student resources section.
New BRE research paper explores how blockchain technology can benefit the built environment industry.
Timber is a natural carbon sink, but it must not end up in landfill at the end of its useful life.
BSRIA has collaborated with the Department of Health on research into air permeability in isolation rooms.
New step-by-step route maps for implementing effective surface water management measures are published.