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Smart technology


“It’s all very well promoting the benefits of solutions which can offer real-time travel information and easy-to-use payment across multiple transport modes but what if the aim is to manage mobility?”


instance, and fail to recognise that mobility in many major settlements tends to be car-centric. So does that constitute smart thinking or, again, a waste of precious resources that could be concentrating on the real problem? And does facilitating travel necessarily achieve the


intended results? It’s all very well promoting the benefits of solutions which can offer real-time travel information and easy-to-use payment across multiple transport modes but what if the aim is to manage mobility and reduce conges- tion? It’s a fact of life that if you make it easier for people to do something, then they will tend to do it. Comfort applica- tions such as real-time travel information may make people more inclined to travel because they can do so in the certain knowledge that as events occur they will be kept up to date and can adjust accordingly, and cities face a conflict of inter- est in having to simultaneously facilitate and manage mobil- ity. They also have to accept that a car-friendly environment may not be pedestrian-friendly or encourage a café society. In short, technology should support policy, not replace


it. More stridently, it should not become a poor stand-in for a lack of policy. Cities need strong leadership and firm


Europe/Rest of the World Vol 8 No 3


decisions if they are to function well and in transport terms the aim should be a solution which is efficient and a means of generating wealth.


BIG DATA – SMALL GAINS? Smart cities are synonymous with another currently fashion- able term, ‘Big Data’. Again, this is something which encour- ages sage nods when mentioned but which is yet to have any clearly defined meaning. The notion is one of being able to capture and somehow fuse even the most granular of infor- mation. From there, it is made more readily accessible to greater numbers of stakeholders, encouraging greater inter- action and cross-jurisdictional/organisational generation of ever-more useful information. There are a number of issues with Big Data. The term itself hints at a level of intrusion beyond social acceptability, and of decisions being made where they perhaps shouldn’t be. But is Big Data truly neces- sary or is it just another ‘new’ message and another form of box-shifting? Organisations such as Transport for London, for example, already make a very good job of sharing data and managing mobility, including that of travellers from


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