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Street smart: Putting data at the heart of our future cities

What can CIOs learn from the cities of the future?

CIOs have traditionally been concerned with carpeted spaces and end-user devices, but the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT) has opened up a whole world of new opportunities.

Cities are at the forefront of this connected revolution, and public sector chiefs in particular are looking at how technology and data can enhance both the running of their organisations, and the services they provide.

140 years ago, Mosley Street in Newcastle upon Tyne became the first city street in the world to be lit by electric lighting.

In 2018, Cisco helped to continue Mosley Street’s legacy as deployments of smart sensors, measuring everything from air quality to traffic flow and bin capacity, transformed the historic strip into the UK’s smartest street.

Many of these sensor-based solutions were showcased at the Great Exhibition of the North – a summer-long celebration of the North of England’s pioneering spirit.

Visitors were able to experience the new smart city applications in the Mosley Street area itself, as well as via screens dotted throughout the city.

Live data visualisations painted a picture of the city’s unseen workings, and allowed our partners at the city council (with the help of Newcastle University and a small band of innovative tech companies) to better understand the challenges every modern city faces.

By starting out with city services that are important but not necessarily considered to be ‘frontline’, the council has been able to use its findings from the project to inform its broader digital vision.

The data mapped by the project represents the coming together of the city’s digital and physical existence, helping decision makers steer Newcastle to a more efficient, prosperous, and healthy future.

But of course it’s not just city authorities that can learn from this approach.

Businesses and organisations of all sizes should be looking at these pioneering smart city projects and considering how they could make more use of the data generated within their businesses.

What potential does IoT have for worksites, campuses, and onsite facilities? How could Newcastle’s creative approach to things like bin levels and air quality be applied to other settings – like hospitals, airports, shopping malls, or large office buildings?

Just as it was back in 1879, Newcastle now stands as an example to other urban areas across the world looking to adopt new technologies.

But it also represents more than that: it shows what can be achieved when people take smart technology and apply it creatively to solve everyday challenges – and what CIO doesn’t have a list of those to tackle?