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Smart London: Putting London on the Digital Map

Author: SSwales/January 21, 2015

London is a city renowned for its ever expanding offerings in an array of opportunities, and is recognised as an economic powerhouse performing well above its competitors such as Beijing, New York and Paris. We are very much a digital generation, developing our technologies at an exceptional level each day, and in recent years there have been a number of significant developments in the digital sector with the vision of benefiting London based businesses, residents and employees alike. As a result of these technologies being widely available, London is fast becoming a digitally-enabled place to live and work, and with new developments such as East London’s Tech City area bringing significant benefits to the city’s economy, it is easy to see why a ‘digital revolution’ is occurring.

Notable developments that have played a role in the digital evolution of the City in recent years include the Bitcoin, Boris Johnson’s plan for a Smart London infrastructure, and the introduction of the immensely popular Uber taxi service. Although some of these may already be popular topics of conversation, what exactly does each of these technological enhancements entail, and what do they mean for the future of business in London?

The Bitcoin

Bitcoin is a universally recognised currency which was first introduced to the public in 2009. It is a paperless payment system which removes the need for banks, meaning no transaction fees or mass printing of notes. Naturally, a city such as London has embraced the Bitcoin and in certain locations around the Capital people are able to purchase and trade using the currency. Shoreditch has recently seen the installation of a Bitcoin ATM in Tech City, allowing individuals to purchase the currency in exchange for paper notes. Although the use of the Bitcoin was initially popular amongst online retailers, there are increasing numbers of locations around London that are beginning to accept Bitcoin as a method of payment. London is fast becoming the largest hub in Europe for Bitcoin users, and it is hoped that the city will lead the way in the use of such virtual currencies, making global trading easier. Adopting Bitcoin as a mode of currency may also be of benefit to businesses attempting to adopt a greener approach, as it eliminates the need for paper currency.

Smart Traffic Lights

By 2020, it is estimated that London’s population will have increased by one million over a ten year period, and major alterations are being planned for the Capital to help it cope with such a phenomenal expansion. One such concern is overcrowding in busy areas of the City, especially at peak times, which is certain to affect commuters. A potential solution to this problem is the implementation of smart traffic lights, which are already being trialled in over 200 London locations to remedy excess traffic flow and minimise the risk of accidents. Using video camera technologies attached to existing traffic lights, the cameras detect when congestion builds up – especially during rush hour – and subsequently alter the time sequence of the traffic lights to accommodate pedestrians and adjust traffic flow. This has already been a successful move – it has been estimated that since 2009 the smart lights have reduced congestion in certain areas by up to 12% – and the system will undoubtedly continue to be refined and improved over time: the Technology Delivery Group at Transport for London maintain that their pedestrian-focused system is the only one of its kind in the world, making London a truly accessible City.

Uber Taxis

The Uber taxi service is already well-known due to its regular appearances in the national and global press. Although Uber may initially seem like your standard taxi service, its business model is changing the way individuals and business users travel. With Uber, the need for physical cash is removed as all payments are done using PayPal, which makes business expenses significantly easier to process, and means there will be no additional stopping times to account for in order to withdraw payment to cover the fare. Additionally, the price for a given journey is set before users even set foot inside the vehicle, making business travel around the city significantly more cost-effective as patrons are no longer charged an extortionate rate for being sat in rush hour traffic. Better yet, ordering a cab no longer requires having to source a taxi firm’s phone number: users book their taxi using the Uber app (which is integrated with Google Maps), allowing users to view the location of drivers in the area and resulting in shorter and more accurate waiting times.

With technology advancing at the level it currently is there are likely to be further significant developments to the London infrastructure within our lifetimes, which will certainly be needed to accommodate the demands of the City’s ever-growing workforce. Some of these could viably be led by London technology firms responding to local needs: Google UK has London offices in Midtown and Victoria, for example, which could feasibly result in technological developments being trialled in homes, streets and offices in the area. And, thinking bigger, the possibilities are limitless. Perhaps all transport infrastructure will be demand-responsive, and public transport across the city will eventually all become driverless? Could whole districts of London become WiFi hotspots, rather than limiting internet connections to the home or office? Or could we possibly see the elimination of paper money and trade in digital currency instead? With the unveiling of such revolutionary and innovative technologies, it leaves us to wonder just what will be next for businesses and offices in the city.

With London firmly established as the technologically advanced city in which to do business, it is worth examining why this drive for development is so strong. For business trailblazers at the forefront of their industry, certain technologies may need to exist simply for the work to be possible: the versatile GoogleDocs application, for example, developed out of businesses’ requirements for multiple people to be able to add to and amend the same document simultaneously, and in many industries it may not be possible to execute certain tasks unless the software is developed to make this achievable. In some cases, such as the increasing use of Uber taxis, the drive may be to make aspects of business faster and more cost-effective. But arguably the greatest incentive for the adoption of technological developments is for the sake of ease and simplicity: businesses require accessible data storage, intuitive communications technology, and the automation or removal of certain functions to allow uninterrupted work flow – and the more of these that can be taken out of their hands, the better. Here is where LEO can help, offering a flexible range of hardware, software, storage and communication packages for single and multiple users. LEO’s professional call answering service and voicemail-to-email facilities help to keep information exchange streamlined and centralised; and with up-to-date HD video conferencing facilities, extensive cloud storage and a private wireless LAN network for your company, plus full access to technical support during working hours, your business should never be compromised through technological faults. LEO offices are versatile and technology-enabled, and LEO staff are happy to accommodate a diverse array of digital needs, helping businesses stay tech-forward without the stress.

For any enquiries please contact: Serviced Offices: +44 (0)20 3008 8888 | Meeting Rooms: +44 (0)20 3008 8889

 

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