Smart Cities – Engaging People, not just Installing Technology

Electric Corby CIC attended the Smart City UK conference on the 4th February at the Chelsea Football Stadium in London. Chaired by the managing director of The Carbon Trust, this conference looked at the creation and transformation of smart cities whilst considering the many factors to be taken into account when defining what makes a city ‘smart’. The conference highlighted the path towards making a smart cities, and how to make them resilient and durable so that they remain ‘smart’ in the future through collaboration and innovation.

The conference defined a smart city as ‘a place where the traditional networks and services are made more efficient with the use of digital and telecommunication technologies’. This is exactly what the District of the Future project (DoF), which Electric Corby is a part of, aims to do within the energy efficiency sector in order to create a smarter city. DoF aims to utilise ICT to more easily and efficiently implement energy-saving tools that will benefit districts as a whole, as well as the inhabitants themselves, by saving energy and money whilst reducing carbon emissions.

One particular issue that stood out in creating smart cities was citizen engagement. For the benefits of a smart city to be fully utilised, citizens need to be engaged with new innovations to allow for their adoption. Spencer Rigler, CEO of Onzo – a company which specialises in analysing large utility/energy data, illustrated the benefits of using real-time data to provide insights into citizens’ energy use and behaviour in order to support and engage them. This data can also be used to track trends and patterns in larger-scale data. Data at the district-level is used to provide insight into energy use within districts, such as analysing where energy consumption can be reduced as well as identifying homes that may be in fuel poverty – an incredibly useful tool for local authorities.

This data can also be used to engage the communities of districts by comparing resident’s energy consumption to their peers and setting residents their own personalised goals for energy reduction. Spencer Rigler made it clear to the audience how important data is in order to understand how energy use can be reduced and more efficient, both at the individual and community level.

Nevertheless, whilst citizen engagement is of great importance, it is vital to consider a district as a whole in order to implement strategies to save energy on a larger scale to greatly reduce both carbon emissions and money spent on energy. Dr Jo Williams of University College London highlighted several ‘new-build’ smart cities, many of which have not yet made it to completion due to several reasons, including lack of funding. It is important to consider the importance of planning when constructing smarter districts, particularly when it comes to energy saving technologies such as district heat networks. Planning these energy-saving methods on a district level means that they benefit the whole district, including public buildings and residential homes, in the most efficient and cost-effective manner.

It is this larger-scale planning that is required in order to observe evident and significant energy reduction. District of the Future takes these objectives into account, providing energy-saving tools that are based upon real-world data and precision modelling techniques in order to plan the most effective methods of reducing energy use and improving how energy is used.

Overall, the Smart City UK conference was an informative event that evaluated the different opportunities and implications within smart cities from a range of excellent speakers with expertise in various backgrounds. It provided an interesting insight into the planning of current and future smart cities and how vital they are to the future of energy.


If you’d like to know more about the DoF project and the work it is doing in order to model a 30-40% reduction in energy consumption within districts, you can visit their website at


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