There has been a lot of talk about smart cities, using technology to either make the cities function better or perhaps to enhance the experience that visitors enjoy. There also seems to have been a fair amount of money available to develop smart programmes yet I have been left with the impression that there has been a minimum population requirement to make such things viable. I think it is around a quarter of a million people.
So where does this leave Durham? As a county we are large, with at least twice the smart city minimum but as a city Durham is tiny. At best it has around fifty thousand residents though this number is swollen considerably by the influx of students. Because of this I’ve never really got engaged with any smart city initiatives or rather all such initiatives have passed us by. That is until yesterday.
We were approached by a local manufacturer of products that could fit into a smart city programme. It was through a chance conversation with a colleague who thought it would be a good idea to get together and so we did.
We talked about where we were and how size appeared to have been a barrier yet when we thought about it we came to the conclusion that it could instead be a benefit. Rather than Durham City being too small it could turn out to be the ideal size to trial new initiatives. Its diminutive stature, its ancient structures and its discrete nature lends itself very well as an urban test bed. This could fit in well with our wider city region and combined authority.
We talked about products they developed and how they might be used to influence behaviours and enhance the built environment. Of course any ideas would have to be developed against the background of regulation in which we operate but it is important that we dream a little. We ended up with some good ideas, too many for the time slot available and so we agreed to meet again with a wider group in the coming weeks. We may become a smart city after all.
Let’s hear it for the little guys.