What will the Post COVID-19 smart city look like?

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As UP Ventures and Connected Places unveil a smart cities accelerator programme, Ashley Norris of Transition Earth looks at what the post COVID-19 city will look like.

Creating smart cities that improve its inhabitants’ quality of life was a huge discussion topic in 2019. Especially in the light of depressing figures on urban carbon output and the impact of climate change. Yet the COVID-19 pandemic has given those who are dreaming of better urban lives enabled by technology even more impetus and has raised a whole load more questions.

What might the post-COVID city look like? Will we shift the uses for urban centres with many shops not able to re-open and offices mothballed? Might they become primary residential areas once again?

And what will the transport network of tomorrow look like? Could it be that public transport shifts from shared services, like buses and trains, through to greater use of personal transports like bikes, e-bikes and e-scooters?

These are questions that a number of UK startups are addressing. And hoping to help them are UP Ventures and Connected Places Catapult who have teamed up to deliver a Smart City Innovation Testbed at Salford’s MediaCityUK.

The programme is basically a startup accelerator that features an initial group of six companies who the organisers will work with to develop and prototype early-stage smart cities products. The end goal is to secure investment and enable the prototypes to become reality. In particular, the programme will focus on how the Internet of Things (IoT) can be harnessed to transform the way we live, work and play.

The six startups will receive all the benefits of an accelerator programme including advice, coaching, networking opportunities and connections with the investment community.

The six companies that have been lined up are:

Atmo Technology – an air quality data company that uses IoT devices and advanced algorithms to help employers monitor the pollution levels that their staff are exposed to.

Cyber Defence Services – which has developed an IoT security platform OvertAI which monitors devices connected to the network and detects threats.

Hello Lamp Post – this startup is working on a way to enable people to converse with street furniture in over 25 countries around the world. The idea being that their feedback will help shape the environment in the future.

Secure Sensor Innovative Design –  it has developed an IoT system that allows organisations such as care homes and housing associations to monitor temperature and humidity levels and can also detect sudden falls from elderly residents.

R-Com – this startup uses sensors to monitor people movement including counting passengers on public transport, measuring air quality and monitoring vehicles on roads.

Pulse Systems – it has an IoT platform on top of UK-made and designed sensors that help businesses make a building ‘smart’ allowing for better understanding of workspaces and how they affect people and the environment.

Says Managing Partner of UP Ventures, Steve Thomas:

“Working towards a post-pandemic world we have an opportunity to create a profoundly positive impact on the way people adapt and thrive. At the heart of our smart city innovation testbed is a passion for technology, the role of places and how they can adapt to support how people live, work, play and learn.”

Adds Neil Fulton, Chief Delivery Officer at Connected Places Catapult:

“The COVID-19 pandemic has stimulated huge demand for innovation in the ways and places we live and work. At Connected Places Catapult we focus on supporting businesses to respond to that market demand.

“We know however that being able to test and demonstrate solutions is essential to commercial success, so we are very pleased to be partnering with UP Ventures Group and MediaCity to deliver this testbed which will allow important innovations to be proven and refined, speeding their journey to market.”

Chris Price
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