Edinburgh council to create smart city operations centre

Edinburgh council is building an operations centre to support smart city services using artificial intelligence (AI), internet of things (IoT) and analytics technologies.

As part of the city council’s ambitions to becoming one of the world’s smartest cities, it has extended an outsourcing deal with CGI by six years.

The extension for $175m (£102m) will take its managed IT services contract, which has already been in place for five years, to 2029. The original seven-year contract signed in 2015 was worth £186m. It saw CGI tasked with updating the council’s IT systems and support its “channel shift” programme, which aimed to introduce integrated digital services across the local authority.

CGI will support the creation of a key part of Edinburgh’s smart city ambitions, the Smart City Operations Centre.

Together, City of Edinburgh Council and CGI will achieve a significant evolution of services in Edinburgh, with several new systems and processes fundamentally improving the lives of all the Scottish capital’s citizens and workers.

Cammy Day, deputy council leader and smart cities lead, said: “We’re already well on our way to transforming the way we deliver many council services, making them much more efficient and easy to use for residents.”

The outsourcing extension will support the council in the next stage of the project. “We want to develop this further, and under the contract we’re looking at making digital learning services a lot more accessible and inclusive for all our pupils and residents.”

It will also support the council’s plans for lowering carbon emissions and costs by using smart technologies. Edinburgh wants to be carbon neutral by 2030.

In education, the city council plans to provide schools with advanced networks and computer equipment, as well as to introduce programmes in finance, tourism, health and social care. Intelligent traffic signals, smart streetlights, and even intelligent sanitation systems are also included in the plans.

Lindsay McGranaghan, vice-president and business unit leader for Scotland, said: “Edinburgh is a vibrant and diverse capital city that is growing at twice the national Scottish average. This growth brings huge opportunities to develop a modern, digital infrastructure that meets the demands of 21st century living. By using the latest digital technology, we aim to help the council make living and working in Edinburgh more transparent, collaborative and dynamic.”

CGI has worked on other smart city projects including Montréal’s and Helsinki’s.

Research in December revealed the demand from Scottish citizens for their local councils to embrace a wider range of digital technologies. The From the smart city to public Wi-Fi study sampled the views of 2,000 Scottish adults in May and June 2019, exploring the attitudes of Scottish citizens to increased digitisation and the internet of things. It found that people living in Scotland were keen to see more digitisation, with as many as 69% of residents saying digital access to local government services influences where they choose to live.

The survey found that the prospect of IoT and the smart city was welcomed, with 83% overall believing IoT could enhance the delivery of services. Among 18- to 34-year-olds, 92% believed IoT would enhance delivery of local council services. However, among the over-55s, this figure fell to 76%.

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