What I Learned At The Smart To Future Cities Summit 2018

POSTED BY   Michele Baker
27th April 2018
What I Learned At The Smart To Future Cities Summit 2018

On Wednesday 25th April, I was lucky enough to attend the Smart To Future Cities Summit 2018 in London to learn more about the ways in which companies, organisations and local authorities are working together to deliver the cities of the future.

For more upcoming events in the IoT and Smart Cities space, check out our guide to some of the best global events in IoT here.

There was, of course, a lot of discussion on the methods and technologies being implemented, but also poignant addressing of the challenges in this area.

The growing global population rise is at the forefront of these challenges. 50% of the world’s current population live in cities, and – as Laurence Kemball-Cook, founder of Pavegen noted – over 1bn more are set to be added to global city populations in coming years. In order to support and sustain this level of human activity, it is an unavoidable imperative for us to find actionable ways for human and machine to work together.

Along with rising populations comes the inevitable increase in traffic congestion on our road networks. Energy grids, too, are already at close to full capacity. Energy resource challenges, in particular, are begging for new technological innovation, for the provision of decentralised power networks that are both effective and sustainable.

Two of the main solutions to the energy crisis that struck me at the summit came from Pavegen and Philips Lighting respectively.

Kemball-Cook gave an engaging and inspiring presentation on the work that Pavegen is doing for both city power and also in meaningful data collection.

Pavegen, in case you are wondering, has developed smart pavements where human footfall converts into electricity to power the local area. Simultaneously, the pavements can gather insightful data about footfall in the area, and is even planning integration with mobile phones, financially rewarding those using (and thus creating electricity from) Pavegen pavements.


Philips Lighting has grand designs on the future of illumination for cities. Barbara Kreissler, Director of B2G Professional Lighting at Philips Lighting asserted that, whilst cities currently account for just 3% of the global landmass, they account for 75% of the world’s energy use. Retrofitting public lighting systems with new, energy-saving LED bulbs is the tip of the iceberg of solutions being offered.

Clearly, decisions need to be made in order to organise the deployment of essential public services beyond lighting, however, addressing services from transport to water and everything in between.

The solutions proposed by Philips include the large-scale integration of sensors into street lighting. There are currently approximately 300 million street lights across the globe, only 30% of which are now LED, and only 2% of which are connected. Philips sees good reason to change this.

Connected street lighting, in the form of integrated sensors, can be used, for example, in collaboration with autonomous vehicles to inform and optimise the safety and efficiency of their journeys. Sensors also play a crucial part in data gathering, an essential part of monitoring, informing, and acting on changes (both real-time and in the recognition of trends and behaviours) within the city.


“We are finding ourselves at a crossroads of leveraging lighting as a backbone for future smart technologies.”


Street lights are already a solid and permanent fixture in our cities. This makes them an obvious candidate for supporting city-wide networks of smart city applications. “Public lighting,” Kreissler remarked, “can become a pathway where people, places and devices connect.”


Another highlight came from Tim Stone, Venture Partner Director & Partner of Breed Reply, who spoke on the importance of city councils working with early-stage IoT businesses. Early-stage companies, he argues, play a critical role in making smart cities smart faster.


“To make this successful transformation, we are going to need this type of innovative organisation to help us solve some of the major challenges ahead.”


Implementation of new smart technologies within cities is currently dominated by the big tech companies, the big systems integrators, which traditionally serve the public sector. Some of the most exciting innovations, however, are coming from small companies. We know that, as a result of ever-reducing costs, the ability to access fantastic AI and ML capabilities, innovation is truly happening in the front room. These early-stage innovators are companies that are delivering fantastic end-to-end capabilities that cities should be taking advantage of.

Everything, Stone asserts, begins with sensors, a statement that resounds with those of Barbara Kreissler from Philips. Sensors are going to generate loads of data, he says. And one of the big challenges is about the data it’s going to generate and what you do with it.

IoT is already deeply part of our city, and sensors are the core of that, whether they are for light levels, air quality, presence, movement, whether they are sensors you can put in yourself or whether it’s the utilisation of mobile phones or the bringing of mobile phones together.

We believe in early-stage companies and startups in the tech space. Find out more about our digital marketing services for your IoT startup here.

We cannot wait, Stone says, until these early-stage IoT startups grow larger. Some councils may consider that a larger business is easier to do business with, but this means that they are going to miss out. It is by working with IoT startups that councils and organisations can facilitate that growth, and encourage these key innovators to thrive and thus to make the difference that they are capable of.


He urged the many city representatives in the audience to break through the walls set by long-standing, prohibitive rules which inhibit growth and innovation, and no longer effectively apply to the changing landscape.

Overcoming challenges in the way of catalysing the uptake of IoT technologies to hasten the smart city revolution was certainly the topic of the summit. I listened to numerous discussions that explored the paths through the minefield of what is, in many ways, still an emerging concept. Connectivity is growing daily, and I was encouraged by the dedication of businesses, investors and technology experts in addressing the reasons and pathways to adoption.


If you would like to add your own takeaways from the event, offer quotes or insight to this write-up, please do drop me an email at michele@thedigitalmarketingbureau.com. I love bringing the hive mind together to deliver deep insight, so feel free to get in touch.


What I Learned At The Smart To Future Cities Summit 2018

Michele Baker

Michele Baker is the Senior Content Strategist at TDMB. She began her journey into tech marketing via a Masters in Creative Writing, evolving from a prize-winning poet and short story writer to a futuristic content guru. Michele now writes endlessly about all aspects of technology, hosts the TDMB Presents… tech podcast, and speaks at numerous tech and marketing events.

Get in Touch With Michele Baker

01306 632 854

You may also like

TechTech Book Club: A Smart Cities Special
Our Favourite Smart Homes Books For All Levels
Our Pick Of The Best Books About Smart Cities