Smart City, Smart Island – they are somewhat media hyped buzz words; but who wouldn’t want to live in a utopian ideal which is healthier, cleaner, resilient, safer and ultimately smarter?
Work is underway on the Island Plan 2021 to 2030 – The Government’s plan that will not only shape our built environment, but communities and nature too. Its impact shouldn’t be understated, previous plans have laid the tracks for the Esplanade to become the Island’s commercial hub and the consolidation of village populations. In summary, the Plan plays a critical role in shaping Jersey’s future economic make-up.
We now have a once in a decade opportunity to embed ‘Smart’ within the Island’s overall vision, linking smart island goals with the broader aims of the Island Plan. By laying out a series of proposed initiatives, the Island Plan could provide a roadmap to make Jersey a Smart Island. It could ensure that investment in technology is not an afterthought, but rather something that is embedded within the Island’s infrastructure and its governance.
This will not only help our community, but industry and Government too. By collecting real-time performance and utilisation data on infrastructure, transport and buildings, authorities and the public will be equipped to make better informed decisions. Ultimately, helping the intelligent consumption and management of these assets.
Many of us already benefit from basic Smart Tech when interacting with infrastructure or services. Primarily, it has been higher value revenue generating assets or cost saving measures which have led to the adoption of Smart Solutions, underpinned by a viable business case. An example being car park management, by capturing and publishing real time occupancy data, consumers can make an informed decision as where to head for parking, additionally car park owners, in our case the Government, can analyse usage and make informed investment and related policy decisions.
As the costs to employ Smart solutions plummet, we have the opportunity to widen the benefits of a ‘Smart Revolution’ by applying this same thinking across many more elements of our island. We could expect to see real time seat availability before we set out to catch a bus, smart street lighting only illuminating when triggered, smart bins only emptied when required, or even dynamic road pricing based on real time congestion.
We have argued the case for a Smart Island Vision within the Island Plan. Here’s a taster of how we think this could be achieved.
By connecting the Island’s infrastructure, we will enable smart resource and asset management creating opportunities for industry and government to improve effectiveness. Connected infrastructure would include street lighting, public bins, transport etc. providing data on utilisation and performance.
Making this data available to 3rd parties in real-time and in a usable/interoperable manner will stimulate the creation and deployment of new services and solutions that improve Islander’s quality of life.
Building on the recently launched Sustainable Transport Policy (here), the Island Plan could guide an ambitious transport strategy and regulatory framework that is underpinned by new and emerging technologies. This could facilitate emerging modes, such as autonomous vehicles and demand responsive public transport; alongside the infrastructure needed to support them; including EV charging points and allocated pick up and drop off areas for shared modes of travel.
Following in the steps of other successful clusters, from Dublin’s Silicon Docks, Manchester’s Media City, London’s Kings Cross, or even Silicon Valley itself – there is an opportunity to better concentrate Jersey’s tech cluster.
Today’s tech firms value face-to-face interaction, large social networks and intra-firm communication. Whereas the digital sector was previously dominated by blue-chip hardware companies that preferred out of town corporate campuses, today’s value is generated from digital applications that require a diverse skills-set. This has driven the proliferation of dense urban tech clusters where the exchanging of ideas between firms and people is facilitated by proximity.
A Tech Quarter in St Helier could bring together the benefits of business clustering, with an emphasis on mix-use dense developments and social/cultural amenities.
And lastly, the Island Plan could bring this together with guidance that encourages the development of buildings that utilise the latest technologies in design, construction and operation. This could be as basic as mandating Smart Metering technology, to 3D printed and modular building techniques.
Though the Island Plan will not directly deliver much of this, it is incumbent upon the strategy to advocate, facilitate, and support the Vision for a Smarter Island. If Covid-19 has one long term impact – it’s sure to be the acceleration of digital adoption by both Government and Industry. Its important that our physical environment doesn’t fall behind our expectations and needs.