We live in an increasingly urbanised world. Currently more than 50 per cent of the world’s population lives in cities, and this is set to grow to 70% by 2050. Recently we have seen an increasing focus on information and communications technology (ICT) to argue the case for ‘smart cities’. This places a strong emphasis on an ICT-led and a ‘data-driven’ future, which also positions the development of new products, processes, organisational methods and markets at the heart of the continued ambition for urban economic growth. 

The interconnected agendas of smart cities and big data and open data, on the face of it, provide bold and exciting opportunities for the built environment professions. But, what in reality will those opportunities be, and what are the challenges? This research, conducted from 2015-2016, seeks to address those questions and focuses on the city level.

The research focuses on a technocratic approach to use of data in smart cities, and how we can make this accessible to built environment stakeholders. We explore the extent to which the built environment sector is engaging with the smart city at ‘programme’ scale (i.e. city-wide) and ‘project’ scale (i.e. urban data platform and other applications). To do this we compare four smart city programmes to pose three primary research questions:

  • How have smart city programmes and projects evolved in these cities?
  • What has shaped this evolution?
  • What is the nature and extent of the built environment sector’s role in such programmes and projects?

The research consisted of interviews in four case studies in Bristol, Milton Keynes, Amsterdam and Taipei and a UK expert workshop."