Next ten years will see a surge of activity in new smart cities era

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fs_gfx_smart-cities-concepts-v1Researchers Frost & Sullivan are promoting a study of the world’s smart cities which predicts that the global market will be valued at US$1.565 trillion by 2020. The report also claims that there will be a minimum of 26 smart cities worldwide  by 2025 with more than half in Europe and North America. By 2025, nearly three fifths of the world’s population, or 4.6 billion people, will live in an urban setting and in developed regions, this figure could run to over 80 percent. This new era of urbanisation will force planners to radically rethink how they create cities, develop digital infrastructure and provide services to residents  in a sustainable manner across a range of key parameters. The report defines smart cities as those built around ‘smart’ and ‘intelligent’ solutions and technology that lead to the adoption of at least 5 of 8 key parameters—energy, building, mobility, healthcare, infrastructure, technology, governance and education, and citizen.

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Focus of investment should be skills, broadband and local transport say CEOs

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Dear SantaThe Government should focus investment on the development of skills and broadband if it wants to drive economic growth. That is the message from a survey of 100 British CEOs carried out by Grant Thornton. Key findings of the report include the fact that 70 percent of respondents would like to see better access to training and development opportunities, 59 percent want to see an improvement in digital infrastructure and 57 percent would like more spending on roads. The Government’s flagship schemes – the Heathrow expansion, HS2 and the proposed new trans-Pennine railway receive a lukewarm response, with the majority of respondents appearing more keen on greater investment in existing long distance rail services, local public transport networks and the greater use of the UK’s underutilised regional airports. There is also a mixed response to plans for greater devolution with support only if regional Governments don’t add another layer of bureaucracy for businesses.The report has been published ahead of next week’s Autumn Statement by Chancellor George Osborne.

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Derry is the latest city to offer free Wi-Fi in all public places

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Free Wi-FiThe City of Derry in Northern Ireland has announced that it is to introduce free Wi-Fi in all public places. The local council is to work with local business owners to introduce the programme  in conjunction with the national Super Connected Cities scheme funded by the UK Government’s Department of Culture, Media and Sport’s Urban Broadband Fund. Full rollout of the programme is expected by the first half of next year and will be accessible to anybody who registers for unlimited access to the city’s network. The initiative claims that it ‘is geared towards increasing digital engagement and energising cultural and economic activity within the city. The network will be available for free public use, with the benefits of being easy to connect, filtered for user protection and scalable for future expansion.’ Derry is Northern Ireland’s second largest city and has in recent years focused inward investment on the digital sector. Last week, we reported on how the Italian Government is looking to offer free Wi-Fi in all public places across the country.

Arup and UCL report offers up lessons from smart cities pioneers

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smart citiesA new report published by engineering and design consultancy Arup and University College London claims that the pioneers of the smart cities movement need to take a more strategic approach to ensure that their spending on IT infrastructure is effective in meeting their objectives. The report Delivering the Smart City: Governing Cities in the Digital Age is based on research of eight cities including London and Bristol in the UK alongside a number of other prominent global cities such as Chicago, Barcelona, Stockholm and Hong Kong. The report found that the cities spend an average of 6 percent of their expenditure on IT services and technology, which amounts to approximately £23 million per city across the study and is roughly equivalent to the amount budgeted in the financial services sector worldwide. While the authors welcome this as a sign that tech spending is taken seriously, they also claim that more could be done to target this spending effectively and tailored to the specific needs of each city depending on factors such as its ‘ecosystem’, culture and governance. It believes that the lessons from this are appropriate to all cities, not just those already pursuing a smart agenda.

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New report offers occasionally surprising vision of the future of work

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Future of WorkA new report into the future of work from Cisco claims –unsurprisingly – that employers are shifting their workplace policies to accommodate new demands from employees for more flexible working styles, regardless of their demographic cluster. The 2014 Cisco Connected World Technology Report also also claims that the majority of both Generation X and Y professionals already believe that smartphones and wearable devices will be the workforce’s most important communication devices by 2020 – while the laptop will maintain its place as the workplace device of choice. These devices and their attendant software and apps will drive the uptake of flexible working although sixty percent of respondents to the survey still prefer to take notes using a pen and paper. Two of the most intriguing findings of the report are that while just over half of Gen Y professionals think they are more efficient than older workers (roughly in line with the perceptions of older workers themselves) this is way out of step with the impression HR professionals, and the majority of people still believe that the future of work still lies in the office, at least some of the time.

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Five ways BYOD policies are changing the role of IT in the workplace

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BYODIf you’ve ever considered adopting a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy you probably know all about its potential benefits. It lets team members work on devices they’re comfortable with. It makes work more convenient. In some cases, it can lower your technology costs. None of these ideas are new, and indeed, much has already been said about how BYOD might impact the end user. But there’s another side of the BYOD story. The other, perhaps more dramatic way that a new policy can change the workplace is through your IT employees and infrastructure. Lots of times, companies tend to underestimate the big internal shifts that precede policy changes—but planning for these shifts is a major part of developing a cohesive strategy. If you’ve already made up your mind and are ready to adopt a BYOD policy, then you should also be ready to encounter some new and unexpected variables. What role will your IT be play under this policy? What kinds of cultural challenges should you begin to expect? How will you adjust? By preparing for new obstacles and expectations, you can create an effective, adaptive BYOD game plan. Here are some of the most important things you should prepare for as you move forward with your BYOD policy.

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Worktech weaves together the strands of people, place and technology

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WorktechDay two of Worktech London and affirmation that far from dying, as so many headline writers would have us believe, the office is merely entering a new phase. The underlying theme of Worktech continues to be how we find new ways of weaving together the strands of presence and connectedness formed by cities, buildings and technology. Worktech is a constant reminder that while our world may be shaped by algorithms, we still need each other and need to be with other people at least some of the time. The event is admirably hosted by long time collaborator and MC Jeremy Myerson whose knowledge and donnish charm holds things together while the real Don, founder Philip Ross, beams from the sidelines. It is now de rigeur for such events to have a poet in residence and this year’s was Matt Harvey who summed things up at the end of the day with reference to Worktech’s longstanding idea of jellybean working  but who popped up in between sessions with lyrical summations including one that showed some real spunk (you had to be there).

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Group of UK’s major employers urges widespread uptake of flexible working

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flexible workingSome of the UK’s largest companies are jointly spearheading the call for the greater uptake of flexible working. On Monday, the 22 companies that make up the Agile Future Forum highlighted the role that factors such as new technology, changing demographics and globalisation are having on the business case for the adoption of agile working practices. Firms such as John Lewis, ITV, Ford, Tesco, Lloyds, BT and B&Q are championing the cause of agile working as a way of running a business that is competitive, productive, attractive to employees and able to compete on the world stage. The AFF, set up by former Lloyds chairman Sir Win Bischoff, used the event to publish its latest research to highlight the ways in which it believes the UK is one of the best-placed countries to foster flexible working in spite of a range of recalcitrant and restrictive working practices. The event cited a recent CBI survey which found that while 97 per cent of UK businesses agree that agility is key to growth, many still offer a limited range of flexible working practices.

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The leap in workplace ill health is down to mobile devices and flexible working

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flexible workingAccording to latest HSE statistics, the UK has seen a huge jump in the number of cases of workplace musculoskeletal disorders over the last two years. The data makes for depressing reading and includes a 20 percent hike in the number of cases to more than half a million, 8.3 million lost working days and a sharp increase in the proportion of work-related illness associated with the condition. Of the 535,000 new illnesses reported in the UK in 2013/14, over a third were musculoskeletal disorders; 184,000 cases. All of which begs the question what exactly is going on to cause this leap. Anecdotally we are aware of a number of factors that might indicate the smoking gun. The first is that clients are talking to us more and more about upper limb disorders rather than those related to the lower back. Pains and illnesses in the lower back are commonly (but not always) associated with poor posture while working at a desktop PC, injuries and aches to the wrists, arms, neck and shoulders are more commonly seen in people with handheld devices especially smartphones and tablets.

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The new issue of Insight is now available to view in your browser

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2.Insight_twitter_logo smThe new issue of our weekly newsletter is now available to view online. This week, Simon Heath asks whether we are really so ready to swap the rat race for a life of indolent uselessness (and possibly edible obsolescence); we report on the failure of a large number of major EU institutions to act on their own green building initiatives; Helen Strother visits the new offices of AutoTrader in Manchester as the company switches to a solely digital platform; Cathy Hayward reports from Workplace Week; Sara Bean finds that the turmoil in the UK commercial property is ongoing, especially in London; and we report on the ongoing and unresolved tensions created by the practice of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and ubiquity of open plan offices.  If you don’t already receive a copy, please sign up using the simple subscription form in the right hand sidebar and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and join our LinkedIn Group to discuss these and other stories.

Italian government considers law to oblige all firms to offer free public WiFi

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WiFiThe Italian government is considering taking a drastic step to increase the number of publicly accessible WiFi  hotspots across the country. As it seeks to close the broadband deficit from which it suffers compared to other European countries, a new bill has been proposed that would make it compulsory for almost every business to provide a hotspot. Those supporting the new law see it as a way of dragging the country up to some sort of par with other EU nations. At the moment Italy has just 50,000 hotpots according to WiFi network provider iPass, compared to 13 million in France and nearly 10 million in the UK. The new law has cross party backing and would oblige all businesses occupying at least 100 square metres and employing more than two people to not only create a WiFi connection but to allow the public to access it for free without a username or password. The new law will not only cover offices, bars and restaurants but also taxis and trains. While concerns have been raised about the proposed law’s necessity and enforcement the Italian parliament will debate it in earnest in the New Year.

Twice as many employees will use BYOD by 2018, predict analysts

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Twice as many employees will use BYOD by 2018 predict analystsBy 2018, there will twice as many bring-your-own devices (BYOD) used at work than employer-owned laptops. However, when designing BYOD programmes, employers need to ensure that they target users who have interest and propensity to use a wider choice of devices for work and feel relatively at easy with technology. According to Gartner, throughout 2017, 90 per cent of organisations will support some aspect of BYOD, and predicts that by 2018 there will be twice as many employee-owned devices used for work than enterprise-owned devices. The analysts says this is because tablets (BYOD) offer better opportunities than that of enterprise owned-laptops and smartphones, as IT departments can support nearly three times more users in tablet BYOD programs than enterprise-owned devices. BYO smartphone programmes have a total cost of ownership that is very similar to those of enterprise-owned smartphones, but will only deliver savings when the organisation is in a position to pay partial, or do not reimburse or subsidise for voice and data plans. More →

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