How hi-tech is helping us plan the city’s future

Council Leader Cammy Day
Council Leader Cammy Day in the City Chambers

Ni hao or hello from Taipei, the incredible capital of Taiwan, where I’ve been joining politicians and public sector workers from all over the world for the Smart Cities Summit.

I was invited to share Edinburgh’s best practice in this field with other city leaders and present our bold vision for net zero carbon by 2030. Joined by two of our university experts in climate and innovation, it has been a fascinating few days.

All cities face similar issues, from population growth to traffic control and grappling with the climate emergency and we are all turning to digital solutions.

Creativity and innovation are historically what our Capital is renowned for, of course, and the work of partners like the Edinburgh Futures Institute is keeping our city at the top of its game.

Leaders from South East Asia to Australia have been fascinated to hear how we’re harnessing high tech within the council - in ways you might also find surprising.

For instance, we’ve been busy installing Scotland’s first cloud-connected smart sensors in on-street bins so that we can better coordinate collections.

In recent months we’ve placed over 4000 sensors within street litter and communal waste bins across the city, putting us on target to hit an impressive 11,000 sensors as part of our citywide trial. They will proactively monitor and manage fluctuations in how full bins can get – think a hot summer’s day in the Meadows versus a rainy Monday in March.

We’re also installing sensors in 500 council homes to assist us in predicting repairs. We’re in an early phase of this trial but I’m excited to see how it will help us understand ways of working cost effectively while providing a good service to tenants.

Connectivity is also expanding and we’re utilising CCTV points for Wi-Fi, focusing on parts of Edinburgh which are prone to poverty.

In West Pilton, for example, we’re bringing together a whole collection of smart city initiatives to address the digital divide and waste issues. We know that technology is a great enabler and we’re smashing our target under our extended contract with CGI to roll out 40,000 iPads to pupils and teaching colleagues.

We also began the year by unveiling a fantastic new £2.6m smart operations centre which is already helping us to keep the city safer. This new system replaces outdated CCTV we had and means we’re able to respond even more quickly to major planned events, as well as emergencies and unpredictable changes. Perfect for the busy festival season which is just around the corner.

All of this work – in addition to our focus on re-using and recycling equipment and promoting paperless technologies - will guide the council to save money and reduce carbon emissions in line with Edinburgh’s net zero carbon by 2030 ambitions.

As we face the twin challenges of population growth and climate change, we’ve never been more committed to pushing forward with our Smart City ambitions and our Digital and Smart City strategy. The fact Edinburgh has been discussed on the global stage this last week as a shining example is testament to the success of this strategy so far.

Published: April 5th 2023