By Michael Moore
London has cemented its place as one of the world's leading cities in terms of technological innovation with its entry to a new project that looks to help protect citizens from threats.
The capital has officially been announced as the site of one of the regional headquarters for the 100 Resilient Cities (100RC) campaign.
Set up by the Rockefeller foundation, 100RC looks to help cities around the globe prepare for and deal with a range of new and growing threats, and ahead of the opening, TechWeekEurope spoke to its president, Michael Berkowitz, to find out more.
"London is one of the most influential cities in the world," says Berkowitz, who says that 100RC is particularly drawn to work with progressive, innovative mayors who want to connect the world to their city.
The capital won its entry to the 100RC project back in December, as part of the second wave of 67 cities that are part of the campaign so far, including the likes of Barcelona, Bangkok, Paris and San Francisco, with the other 33 being announced early next year, marking it out as one of the world's leading centers of thinking.
"When people around the world look for best practice of how to run a city, London is often one of the reference points," Berkowitz says.
The 100RC project looks to make cities more resilient to threats, with the Rockefeller Foundation investing $170 million so far to help build "urban resilience" worldwide, Berkowitz says, but what exactly does this mean?
Its Website says it is "dedicated to helping cities around the world become more resilient to the physical, social and economic challenges that are a growing part of the 21st century," which Berkowitz says can be anything from natural disasters to cyber-criminals.
"We have a very broad view of urban resilience and what makes a city resilient," he says, "It's not just cities having good emergency response and public health…but also cities having diverse and flexible economies, cohesive neighborhoods, and good infrastructure in both the built environment, in terms of telecommunications and business services, but also the natural environment."
"It's very easy for cities to do the same things they've always done¾we're trying to think about things in a slightly more broad and holistic way."
London stood out for several reasons, Berkowitz says, not least due to its bombastic Mayor Boris Johnson, who he describes as, "an innovator¾he's comfortable taking risks."
The capital has a selection of interesting risks for the 100RC project to contemplate, as the city is subject to a number of potential threats and hazards.
This ranges from natural hazards like flooding and heat waves, to terrorism in all its forms, and a number of 'stress points', such as housing, space, and transportation, all of which often rub up against each other and cause friction for the populace.
Safe and Secure?
However, cyber-security is one of the main threats facing large modern cities, Berkowitz believes, especially as more systems and processes are moving into the cloud.
Although hackers taking down a city has only been the place of film and television, 100RC is pulling no punches in its investment to take cybercrime. This includes signing a deal with Microsoft to help cities build cyber-security strategies and combat online threats.
The partnership sees Microsoft helping cities to embrace the increasingly digital landscape through Microsoft CityNext¾an initiative aimed at helping cities increase productivity and efficiency by implementing social, mobile, cloud and data technology solutions.
"Cyber-security is something lots of cities are interested in," says Berkowitz.
"It's not simply about what you control as a municipal government…the risk is much broader and shared by a variety of stakeholders that have to collaborate together."
This means that local authorities have to work with the bodies that run institutions such as banks, hotels and airports to ensure they aren't affected, as well as the national government being involved, which is a process 100RC hopes to speed up.
As cities become smarter and more connected, this also opens up new risks, and 100RC hopes to be able not just to protect, but to help push forward in this areas as well.
"Cities understanding themselves in real ways, along with smart technology – sensors, Internet of Things, all of that--they can be the hubs for huge amounts of amazing data," says Berkowitz.
And overall, Berkowitz is hoping that London's participation will let it show off its innovation and forward-thinking to the rest of the world.
"London has a lot of great data," he says, noting that the city's government has an extensive 'smart city' plan for the future, including details on an open data strategy, and using it in very progressive ways.
"London has a good opportunity to be the teacher as well as the pupil."