Smart cities need sustainable, innovative funding

All UK local authorities have ambitions to deliver economic regeneration, improve their environments and deliver tangible societal value to residents and businesses.

The technological innovation and advances that lie behind the smart cities movement are opening a plethora of new ways to deliver on this ambition and make our cities greener, cleaner, happier, healthier and wealthier.

To date, there have been many pilot projects successfully trialling new technologies, delivering valued outcomes. However, in the age of austerity, with central government funding halved , the fundamental questions facing a city with smart aspirations are how successful projects can be delivered at scale and who’s going to pay.

Government money funds pilots and research and development, but rarely does it extend to long term funding for ongoing operational costs. Viable business models to justify investment from the private sector are few and far between. To unlock smart cities’ possibilities and make meaningful improvements to the lives of citizens, sustainable funding models are needed.

One established model that has been funding public infrastructure (ie bus shelters, public toilets and bike hire schemes) across the globe for decades is advertising. Public transport concessions up and down the country, including the largest advertising concession in the world – the London Underground contract – are funded in part by advertising. Without it there would be even greater demands on public finances.

The advertising model is now being applied to digitally enable urban environments. Pulse Smart Hub, the smartest in smart street furniture, provides next generation connectivity that shares information and ‘senses’ its environment at no cost to the public or taxpayer, and is capable of customisation and adaptation for its local environment.

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