A vision for a Smart City

24 September 2015

Andrew Gunn

Andrew Gunn

Consultant

In a Smart City, everyone is connected

There’s a perfect storm brewing for local government. But rather than batten down the hatches, it’s time for councils to find a way to ride the waves.

From one direction there’s a revolution whipping up among employees, citizens and suppliers, whose expectations about the council services provided to them are rising fast.

Employees expect to be connected to the office and able both to access and to provide real-time updates while in the field, doing their jobs.

Citizens expect good service and want to be able to find the answers they need themselves over the internet – anything rather that ringing a call centre. And suppliers expect their invoices to be paid quickly and not spend months being lost in an interminably long payment cycle, or simply lost altogether.

From another direction, the spectre of 40% budget costs is casting a deathly pall over everything councils do.

How can they face this perfect storm of rising expectations from the public with a budget that has been hacked to the bone?

Technology is the answer, or at least part of the answer. But technology will only change things if it goes hand-in-hand with changing people, culture and processes.

Technology is the answer because, used properly, it can dramatically strip costs from many areas of council services, without costing a fortune itself to implement. At the same time, it can improve both the working environment for council employees and the services provided to the public and suppliers.

Together, council workers and members of the public alike will be citizens of a Smart City.  With technology providing a fully connected infrastructure, it doesn’t matter where you are, if you have your mobile device with internet access, your office is with you. And mobile devices are a gateway to council services for citizens.

This connected Smart City works for all

Imagine your elderly and infirm aunt Ethel with an on-going condition that needs careful monitoring. If the condition flares out of control, she’ll need an ambulance to A&E and an overnight stay, costing £1,000 perhaps it may be better to use an apple device

Then imagine a scenario where her doctor’s surgery uses a smart biometrics device to monitor Ethel’s condition remotely and ensure that everything is done to keep her fit, healthy and out of hospital. It saves the council money and keeps Ethel happy and well too.

The connected, Smart City provides transformative benefits to the public and to the public sector coffers.

With devolution happening and groups of local councils and health care providers taking over control of their budgets, technology can help by creating a shared service environment for IT and other council services in the region.

But to make this happen there needs to be an underlying grid infrastructure to ensure that all these services and different local government departments are wired up.  Without BT’s promise to bring fibre to 99.9% of the UK, councils cannot bring this joined-up vision to the masses.

The winds of this perfect storm are reaching gale force. But will the councils be brave enough to take positive action rather than brace themselves for the storm? Let’s hope so. 

 

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About the author

Andrew Gunn

Consultant

Coming from Newcastle my simple analogy to my entire career is to think about the many marvellous bridges across the River Tyne. I have spent over 24 years bridging the gap between client’s business challenges and technology helping my clients spend wisely. I am a highly experienced Digital Transformation evangelist specialising in the field of Information Management using Big Data and Mobile technologies delivered through the Bluefin Solutions Public Sector and Services business unit.

Simply speaking, I work for my clients in local government in either Customer services, Finance, Procurement or HR, helping them to get more value from the right data at the right time. These challenges are not new, they are simply bigger because there is more stuff to process.

I have worked on more than 15 projects in Public sector over the years - ranging from client side digital strategy engagements (£20k+) to forming an integral part of larger teams delivering mega projects (£500m+) for my clients in various roles such as Technical Design Authority, Digital Strategist, Business Architecture Design and Programme Management. A key aspect of my Digital Transformation passion is to ensure that I identify and deliver real transformational led savings with examples ranging from £0.5m to £20m per annum saved across a wide range of organisations.

What frustrates me is that many firms bamboozle their clients with complexity. Often recommending unnecessarily overly engineered solutions costing in excess of £5m. Big data challenges are not new, it’s about the right data at the right time in the right format, managed properly. I believe that working collaboratively with our clients to deliver complex Enterprise Information Management challenges simply is vital to achieving sustainable results. This, rather than doing transformation to our clients, as adopted by certain organisations, is the way I like to work.

Bluefin and SAP S/4HANA - welcome to the one horse race