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Solace blog

30th November 2016

Engaging people in digital transformation: Lessons from the smart meter rollout

In November, Smart Energy GB joined the Greater London Authority and the city’s Deputy Mayor for Business, Rajesh Agrawal, to represent the capital at the World Smart City Congress in Barcelona.

The focus of the congress, which attracted over 30,000 international delegates and representatives from 600 cities, was ‘cities for citizens’.

Amongst this community of technology experts, city leaders and academics driving the smart city revolution, a consensus is emerging – while technology can make our cities more resilient, efficient, affordable and liveable, unless end users are effectively engaged, the full potential of digitisation will not be reached.

In Rio, Dubai, Beijing, and Amsterdam, city leaders understand that their cities will only be as ‘smart’ as their citizens. They are recognising that turning their smart city visions in a reality starts with ensuring that the strategies, policies, and projects they depend on are developed, designed and delivered with real people in mind.

As the national campaign to engage Great Britain about smart meters and the benefits of digitisation of the energy sector, we welcome this approach.

Indeed, our experience of engaging consumers about smart meters demonstrates the importance of clear communications, and we see a connection between the smart meter rollout, digitisation of the energy sector and the smart city agenda.

For this reason, Smart Energy GB is developing a simple tool for cities to assess their smart strategies and projects, and ensure that they are framed and designed in a way that maximises their chances of success. We call it the REAL Ratio – an acronym based on the four desired outcomes of any digitisation project – Resilience, Efficiency, Affordability, and Liveability.

Our proposed approach helps cities to focus on outcomes rather than means and provides a frame through which to think about, develop and present the given project or strategy in a way that is accessible to all, whatever their background, interest, and knowledge of the particular sector.

We believe that the REAL Ratio could also help cities avoid siloed thinking, by providing a means with which to compare and contrast projects and plans from different sectors and different scales.

In the coming months, we will be talking to interested local authorities about the potential uses of the REAL Ratio. We look forward to leveraging our experience of engaging consumers with the real benefits of smart technology to help those cities ensure that smart makes sense to everyone, from policy formation all the way to project delivery.

Ultimately, as our participation in Barcelona confirmed, the technologies to make the places we live in more resilient, efficient, affordable and liveable are here. However, the transformative potential of those will only be met if people are bought into the outcomes of the city’s overarching strategy. This starts by making sure that the plans and projects are designed with them in mind, and in a language they understand.

By Claire Maugham, Director of Policy & Communications, Smart Energy GB