Enhancing growth and managing risks in secure connected places

The application of digital technologies on your local high street, at the bus stop, or in your park, creates a ‘connected place’.

The use of these technologies in the places and spaces where we live, work and visit, has been expanding over the last decade and they can now be found across the country, and not just in big cities.

Matt Warman MP, Minister for Digital Infrastructure, and Prof. Greg Clark CBE, Chair of the Connected Places Catapult, both reflect on the role of local and national leadership.

Technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), or the ability of everyday objects like your doorbell or lighting to connect to the Internet, have become much more affordable and their application more developed in recent years.

As a result, public sector organisations are increasingly exploring the potential for how such technologies and their applications might improve their services. Through IoT, buildings and occupiers, transport systems and vehicles, energy suppliers and utility providers can provide for digital interactions with citizens, and create places and journeys that are more efficient and responsive.

Connected places technologies therefore have huge potential to deliver benefits in terms of accelerating the transition to net zero, and enhancing regional prosperity.

Applications currently in development, or already in use, include:

  • automated incident detection and reporting for environmental emergencies such as fire and floods;
  • reducing traffic congestion through sensors and advanced data modelling;
  • reducing delays on rail networks through predictive maintenance;
  • wayfinding technologies for better navigation, exploration, behaviour change and encouraging modal shift; and
  • open data platforms for local people, innovators, government and industry to access and benefit from data sets ranging from air quality to electronic vehicle charging points and energy consumption.

Interest in these technologies has increased further since the beginning of the pandemic as organisations look to improve the resilience of services, and adapt operations to meet the changing demands of a post-pandemic society.

However, with these opportunities comes new risks. This vital work keeping connected places safe can’t be done alone, which is why DCMS is collaborating with Connected Places Catapult – an organisation with experience and expertise on connected places technologies.

What is the focus of DCMS’s work?

Following publication of the NCSC Connected Places Cyber Security Principles in May, the DCMS team is looking to build on this guidance to improve the UK’s resilience to cyber threats, and reduce the risk posed to businesses, infrastructure, public sector and people.

The programme of work will be focusing on:

  • the potential applications of digital connectivity to different types of connected place – from ports to train stations, high streets to hospitals, city centres to market towns;
  • strengthening the capability and capacity of local authorities, and other organisations, to buy and use connected places technology securely;
  • identifying and mitigating potential risks of connected places technology and services, including looking at the role people and communities can play;
  • identifying and engaging with the main suppliers of connected places technologies on cyber security; and

exploring whether existing standards and guidance cover the full range of cyber security risks.

DCMS is bringing together people from different departments to make sure supporting the deployment of Secure Connected Places technology, is a Cross-Government endeavour.

How does Connected Places Catapult fit into this?

Connected Places Catapult is the UK’s innovation accelerator for cities, transport, and places.

Backed by the UK Government, Connected Places Catapult works to help companies turn new and emerging technologies into successful commercial products which can be scaled globally. Balancing the huge potential benefits of connected places solutions with the risks is critical to this mission.

How are DCMS and Connected Places Catapult working together?

Connected Places Catapult will be providing expertise directly into the DCMS team, and via the newly formed External Advisory Group, chaired by Prof Greg Clark CBE, Chair of Connected Places Catapult.

Connected Places Catapult is also providing expertise on the digital built environment and technology in the public realm, advocating for innovative UK businesses operating in this growing market, and helping DCMS connect and support buyers of connected places products and services.