Driverless cars and Oyster cards are on the cusp of reality in Cambridge as the brainpower of Cambridge University and business has been unleashed to tackle the city's traffic problems.
A new report to Cambridge's landmark City Deal outlines a major breakthrough in harnessing the city's intellectual muscle to make Cambridge a better place to live.
And there are some fascinating ways in which these smarts could be put to good use.
This includes Oyster cards, a new travel app, better access to Cambridge railway station, an overhaul of traffic management on the A14, a 'digital high street' influencing shopping habits even making the city a global guinea pig for driverless vehicles.
This could involve different university campuses being linked off-road by driverless pods, as well as exploring other ways of using driverless vehicles to ease congestion.
Cllr Lewis Herbert, chairman of the City Deal board and leader of the city council, said: "Cambridge is ideally placed to develop this 'smart city' technology and to lead the way in innovative transport solutions with its world class technology businesses and universities.
"The Smarter Cambridgeshire approach using digital technology will also help to attract investment, stimulate innovation and create world leaders in a market that is currently estimated to be worth over a trillion dollars.
"Every pound spent where we're not digging up the roads is a pound well spent."
This programme will bring together local councils and partners to explore how smart data, innovative technology and better connectivity can help transform the city's transport network, reduce congestion and boost the local economy.
It will be led by the Connecting Cambridgeshire programme, which is improving the county's digital infrastructure with better broadband, free public wi-fi and wider mobile coverage creating opportunities for more flexible working and less traffic.
It will also look to harness emerging 'smart city' technology to find innovative ways of delivering even more benefit to Cambridge.
The report by Graham Hughes, executive director of economy, transport and environment at the county council, said Greater Cambridge had "a unique opportunity to become a leading 'digital test bed' for smart technology".
The report continues: "The academic and business sectors in Cambridge and the surrounding area have long been associated in a global context with pushing the boundaries of technology and being at the forefront of digital innovation.
"Incorporating a 'smart cities' approach within the City Deal programme offers the dual benefit of both drawing on the strengths of the Cambridge research and entrepreneurial community to facilitate delivery of the City Deal objectives, at the same time as supporting the local digital economy by showcasing the work of the technology sector."
Earlier this year the City Deal committed 20,000 per year for the next two years to get the 'smart cities' programme off the ground.
Eventually these technologies pioneered in Cambridge could be used to improve the city's healthcare, housing, skills training and environmental management.
Wednesday's City Deal assembly, which advises the board, recommended the creation of a specific smart cities programme.
City Deal assembly chairman Cllr Tim Bick said: "The key to this is there are a number of exciting ideas emerging.
"The small money that is set aside at this stage is not the investment in one of these ideas.
"It is to explore what is valuable in terms of smarter city techniques and where this fits with what we need in Cambridge."
The move was also welcomed by business group Cambridge Ahead, which recently set up its own taskforce looking at the city's technology.
A spokesman told the News: "We welcome this initiative to incorporate a 'smart cities' approach within the City Deal programme.
"The key to making this a success will be aligning business needs with the plans of local government.
"We note that the initial focus is on improvements in transport, however we welcome that the effort will also explore wider smart city opportunities such as improving services, the environment, and housing.
"Ultimately it's about data and the stated intention for developing a 'Smart Architecture' technology infrastructure acknowledges this.
"Our own Connecting Cambridge Project team is fairly new but will ultimately support and inform future council plans for positioning Cambridge as a hyper-connected city."
Source: Cambridge News
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