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Harnessing the Power of Smart City Innovation

  Guest blog post

Population & Urbanisation

It took 5000 years to accumulate 7.3 billion people on planet Earth. Over the next 35 years, that population is projected to increase by another 25% to 9.7 billion.

At risk of repeating the statistics that now are well known and often cited in the media, the urban population was 50% urban in 2008 and by 2050 humanity is projected to be over 70% urban.

Contrast that with the figures from 1800 (3% urban population), 1900 (14%) and 1950 (30%) and we get a picture of the incredible significance of the global urbanisation phenomenon and the challenges and opportunities it represents.


People gravitate to cities to access the opportunities and benefits they offer. More than 80% of global GDP is generated in cities. Arguably, they are the best place to access employment, education, healthcare, accommodation, cultural activities and more. The other side of that coin: about 80% of all energy produced is consumed in cities and about 80% of CO2 emissions arise from cities.

Set against declining municipal budgets, city leaders need to find ways to continue providing services and opportunities that draw people to cities in the first place, more efficiently and at a lower cost per capita if they are to avoid the pitfalls of urban malaise: sprawl, pollution, social exclusion, congestion.

We have always used the resources at our disposal to organise cities in a way that makes them habitable and as convenient as possible for citizens and the urban functions they perform daily.


We are digital now. And that gives us another tool for planning and delivering city services.

The ubiquity of mobile devices and digital networks means we produce and accumulate unfathomable amounts of data each day. It has only been quite recently that computing power and storage (in the cloud and on the edge of networks) has been available at a low cost leading to ease of data analytics and facilitating our knowledge of how cities perform in real time.

Smart Cities

Convergence between the digital economy and the resource sector is creating a whole new ecosystem of solutions and services that have the potential to lead to better, healthier, safer and more sustainable and resilient cities.

And as such, cities are evolving to become increasingly connected and responsive entities. We are not there yet, but it’s easy to imagine a scenario where energy, transportation, healthcare delivery and city services are managed by intelligent networks and platforms that interoperate to maximise efficiencies and help accommodate ever increasing urban populations.

To achieve that we need to harness the power of innovation.

Smart City Innovation

Smart City Innovations

Smart City innovations take many forms.

Many work behind the scenes using open data sources from city-related authorities, such as public transport providers to help us access services more efficiently and move frictionlessly through our daily routines. Think Citymapper, the mobile app that allows you to view all transport options for your city journey and get directions, down to the best train carriage for your required transfers.

Others form part of the city landscape whilst providing essential services that make city life more enjoyable and convenient. Think cycle-share schemes which use mobile apps to indicate where there are bikes available and, in some cities, integrate with the wider public transport system using a single smart access system.

And, new in some London public spaces, the Strawberry Smart Bench, a solar-powered, wifi-enabled, mobile device charger built into stylish street furniture. It also offers environmental sensing, so rolled out across the city, it could provide a network of air quality sensors in the locations in which people like to sit and enjoy the city whilst charging their phone at the same time.

Now that’s smart!


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With a career of over twenty years in sustainability, technology and the built environment in Europe, North America and Asia, Mikele is a recognised leader in urban innovation.

Mikele is a founding partner of Urban Living Futures, accelerating the commercial impact of built environment innovations via multiple deployments with our global property industry and city clients. She is also an advisor and mentor to smart city and energy start-ups.

Recently Mikele led a pioneering initiative at Canary Wharf, London – Cognicity, an innovation programme to attract novel smart city technologies from around the world to enter an accelerator, learn how to make their solutions interoperable and pilot them on the estate.

Mikele helped to establish the UK government’s Future Cities and Energy Systems Catapults. She has also been a consultant to the Greater London Authority (GLA), developing a commercial building energy retrofit programme and to the Smart Cities Expo World Congress.

Previously, Mikele led the Cities and Government sector in General Electric’s Global Growth and Operations team, developing commercial models for sustainable energy solutions for central and local government. Prior to joining GE, Mikele led the UK introduction of Building Information Modeling services for two startups, promoting collaboration and efficiency in design, construction and lifecycle building portfolio management.

Earlier in her career, as an urban planner, Mikele worked on property and infrastructure masterplans, sustainable development studies and socio-economic impact assessments for new urban areas, regeneration areas and urban infrastructure systems in Asia, Europe and North America.

You can follow Mikele at @mikelejillbrack and Urban Living Futures at @UFutures. Don’t forget to follow us too @e_strawberry.

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