Only 10 per cent of survey respondents were aware of the smart city roll-outs across the UK
Two-thirds (67 per cent) of British people think investment in smart city technology is a waste of public money.
The findings come from a survey of 2,030 people in the UK by the broadband comparison site, Broadband Genie, which also found that a similar number (69 per cent) have privacy and security concerns when it comes to their personal information being retained.
Broadband Genie’s research looked at the use of smart technology by British councils and the public’s opinion of it. Freedom of Information requests were submitted to councils around the UK asking for details of deployed and planned smart city programmes, the allocated budget for these programmes, who owned the data gathered and whether data was shared with third parties.
While a significant number of authorities did not respond or declined due to the cost of gathering the information, Broadband Genie did obtain details of many smart city projects. These included: energy saving street lamps in use in Leicester, Cambridge, Aberdeen, Chester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Reading and York; and council operated public wi-fi in Belfast, Derby, Inverness, York, Leicester and Worcester.
Other smart city technologies identified around the UK included traffic management, bicycle tracking, environmental sensors, air quality monitors, smart waste bins, people counters, automatic number plate recognition (ANPR), water depth sensors, anti-drowning systems and smart parking meters. Some councils also class broadband improvement projects as part of their smart city work.
The survey results also strongly suggest more effort needs to be put into making the public aware of smart city technology. Just 10 per cent of respondents said they knew about smart city projects around the UK.
Rob Hilborn, head of strategy at Broadband Genie, told SmartCitiesWorld that the research suggests there is lots of interest from councils in the potential for smart city technology, but not enough communication with citizens about what programmes exist, how much they are costing, what the benefits are and what kind of information is recorded.
“The negative response to capturing private information shows there’s a great deal of scepticism about the capability of councils and third parties to safely handle this information,” he said.
He added: “The costs and benefits must be explained, so councils should make efforts to publicise these details before any money is spent so that people can have their say and know exactly how their money is being spent. It’s also crucial for them to reassure people about privacy and security concerns, so authorities should explain exactly what they’re collecting, how it is going to be used and who else may have access.
"And where it’s not going to infringe anyone’s privacy or security, it would be a positive step to have councils publish all data that’s gathered. Additionally, it would be helpful to know what steps they’re taking to ensure the security of smart city technology against hackers.”
More information on the research can be found at www.broadbandgenie.co.uk/blog/20170124-smart-cities-survey-data-privacy
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