Rush for Indian smart cities ‘ignoring poor and vulnerable’

Joseph Flaig

Poor people and minorities risk losing out during India's Smart City Mission, says the report (Credit: iStock)
Poor people and minorities risk losing out during India’s Smart City Mission, says the report (Credit: iStock)

An “unseemly rush” to create 100 Indian smart cities is forcing people from their homes and destroying communities, experts have said.

The comments came after a new report from the Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN) said people with low incomes, women and minorities risk being disadvantaged by their country’s mission for new smart cities. Forced evictions and threats of eviction because of developments have been reported in at least four areas, just two years into the large project, said the report’s authors.

Smart cities are generally described as urban developments which integrate Internet of Things (IoT) systems and other new technologies. According to Reuters, the Indian Smart Cities Mission aims to bring high-speed internet, consistent water and power, efficient public transport and “living standards comparable to Europe” to existing cities.

However, the report from the New Delhi-based campaigners said the $7.5billion plan lacks “a comprehensive vision for the future that omits the needs and aspirations of cities and their inhabitants, especially the majority”.

The project “dispenses utterly with the needs of the Indian people — when, that is, it isn’t simply bulldozering their communities under in the name of progress,” said London-based writer Adam Greenfield, author of Radical Technologies.

“What may seem like the height of contemporary city-making in the government’s presentations and renderings is little more than a pretext to uproot poor farmers and fisherpeople from the land, and replace their villages with gated enclaves and golf courses intended to serve the elite,” he said. “It’s an unconscionable use of technology, and anyone who works on this project bears some measure of responsibility for the destruction of communities and lifeways bound up in it.”

The report identifies seven major issues with the project, including a “disturbing” silence on the needs and rights of women, children, and marginalised groups. This raises questions over the mission’s ability to improve living conditions for everyone, the authors say. “No city can be considered ‘smart’ if it ignores the interests of poor, marginalised, and vulnerable groups and communities,” they add.

Other issues identified in the report include a high dependence on foreign or private sector investment and an “unrealistic reliance on technology” to solve serious societal problems.

“The premise of the smart city as a relevant model for India needs a fundamental re-evaluation, especially when profits seem to prevail over people and technology over human rights,” said Shivani Chaudhry, executive director of the HLRN. “This is all the more urgent given the increasing levels of exclusion, impoverishment, unemployment, hunger, homelessness, forced evictions, and displacement of the urban poor in our cities.”

‘Minimising risks’

Smart cities also carry many risks to personal privacies, said expert Rob Kitchin from Maynooth University. Data collected from IoT devices, such as smart lamps or bins, can be collected and used to profile citizens. This can lead to predictive policing which often targets minorities, said Kitchin. 

More responsive and intelligently designed cities can bring many positives, but basic infrastructure needs must be addressed first and ethical concerns should always be considered, said Kitchin. “It is not necessarily being against the smart city, it is about being in favour of an ethical smart city,” he said. “It is not denying the technology has benefits, but it is about realising those benefits while minimising risk and potentially discriminatory aspects of it.”

Indian housing ministry spokesman A. A. Rao told Reuters there had been no forced evictions “to his knowledge”. “The mission provides the choice to those who live in squalor to live with dignity, in a more hospitable environment with basic infrastructure,” he added.

Bosch and Nokia are bringing 5G robots to the factory floor

The new generation of collaborative manufacturing robots have been freed from their cages, but they’re still tied down by wires and cables.

A collaboration between Nokia and Bosch seeks to change that, using 5G technology.

The companies have worked together to develop robots that can be controlled wirelessly over a 5G connection. A prototype of the technology, built into an industrial pick-and-place robot, was on show at the TechXLR8 exhibition in London today.

The advantage of using a 5G connection is that the response times are quicker, and you don’t get the peaks and troughs you would with Wi-Fi or current LTE networks.

The technology could also make robots safer. Currently, all robots are equipped with an emergency stop buttons to prevent them from harming nearby humans. But what if a human can’t reach the button when they need to?

On Nokia and Bosch’s prototype, instead of the controls for the robot being mounted on its body, they are placed on a handheld tablet that can display information about the machine, along with physical safety switches like the emergency stop button. This reduces duplication, because you don’t need to have multiple emergency stop buttons in different spots around the robot, and increases safety. “This is an immediate benefit,” Nikolaj Marchenko, a research engineer at Bosch, told Professional Engineering.

Going forward, the technology could pave the way for more adaptive and responsive collaborative bots. A previous project by Nokia and China Mobile used 5G to link small robots to a central server. They then worked together to balance a ball on a moving platform (see video above).

“In the future, you can see these robots being on mobile platforms,” said Marchenko. “The tasks will be more diverse. On production lines in future, they don’t need to built for years, you can change it every few days. Or it could be task-based. The robot could notice that there is a task that needs to be done on the other line, and it can just move over.”

Also in future, said Marchenko, a robot could even react in real time to orders, and position itself at a point in the factory where it’s most needed.

Hyperloop pod could get from London to Edinburgh in 35 min

How the HypED Hyperloop pod could look (Credit: HypED)

How the HypED Hyperloop pod could look (Credit: HypED)

Flying through a metal tunnel at close to the speed of sound, a pod carrying 30 people could travel from London to Edinburgh in just 35 minutes.

A group of about 50 students from the University of Edinburgh is designing the pod as part of an international effort to create a commercially viable Hyperloop, first proposed by Elon Musk in 2012. The concept involves levitating pods travelling at high speeds through tunnels with low air pressure. It is hoped that it could be “more efficient, greener, on-demand and faster” than existing travel options.

The Edinburgh team, known as HypED, is taking part in two international competitions: SpaceX’s Hyperloop Pod Competition to design and test a half-scale pod; and the Hyperloop One Global Challenge, to propose and promote possible European Hyperloop routes.

The students are building their pod, currently named Poddy McPodface, in the university’s workshops ahead of competitive testing at SpaceX’s track in August. It will have a top speed of about 400kmh because the track is only 1,200m long, but the team say a full-size Hyperloop could hit speeds of 1,100kmh on the 534km journey between the English and Scottish capitals.

HypED is competing against many other universities and established companies, but president Adam Anyszewski said their pod’s engineering and design gives it several advantages. “Our prototype uses quite a lot of already available and established technology, so that makes it marketable in the sense that there is no new material, no new manufacturing processes that are still to be commercialised,” he told Professional Engineering.

“Effectively it is a novel form applied to already existing solutions. The biggest challenges coming in the construction of the Hyperloop are obviously the high speeds that you are dealing with and also aspects of the controlling the levitation.”

The Hyperloop could feasibly run between Edinburgh and London as well as Birmingham and Manchester in about 30 years, said Anyszewski. The pods would leave twice a minute, with passengers boarding modular rows of seats which transfer into the pod. An artificial intelligence system would drive and monitor the pods, keeping them at safe distances apart.

Using magnetic levitation, the pods would travel in a metal tunnel with an average maximum depth of 15-20m. The tunnel would have very low air pressure, providing less resistance for the pod. This aspect creates the main safety risk, said Anyszewski, with unplanned decompression forcing pods to a halt. However, he claimed the deceleration would be “unpleasant but not deadly”.

Hyperloops could revolutionise travel and transform societies around the world but particularly in the UK, said Anyszewski. “We are effectively extending the concept of London as a city, where so much of the UK wealth and capital is concentrated, to different parts of the country,” he said.

“The UK is a country of quite big stratification in society, relatively big inequality for such a developed economy. You have London, which is one of the most productive cities in the world, while nine out of the 10 following cities in the UK have productivity levels below EU average.”

By linking the four cities with an accessible, efficient and quick mode of travel, Hyperloop would help diversify wealth and bring prosperity to new areas, claimed Anyszewski. The concept is future-proof, he added, in comparison to the expensive and much-delayed HS2 rail link, which will only address current demand.

“Europe embraces new ideas in transportation like no other region in the world and is uniquely positioned to take the next great leap in transportation,” said Shervin Pishevar, co-founder of Hyperloop One, which is considering nine possible routes. “Our vision is to, one day, connect all of Europe with our Hyperloop One system, networking the entire continent.”

GDPR: What industry needs to know to avoid hefty fines

Credit: iStock

Credit: iStock

Data protection is vital to any company’s trusted relationship with both customers and suppliers; it’s not just the latest string of cyber-attacks making this obvious.

However, from next year, companies need to comply with a completely new framework for data protection, when the European Union’s new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force on 25 May 2018.

The GDPR replaces the Data Protection Directive 95/46/EC and is aimed at supporting the single market, equalising data privacy laws across the EU, and protecting European citizens’ data privacy. It is also designed to improve the way businesses approach data privacy for EU citizens anywhere in the world. In other words, companies have to comply, both in the run-up to and after Brexit.

So what exactly will change and how can firms prepare for GDPR?

The biggest change and challenge will be “a baseline requirement for data governance,” Florian Douetteau, the head of New York-based data science firm Dataiku, tells Professional Engineering. “Businesses will have to start thinking about where data is stored, who has access, and how those people access it. This is quite a big change – most companies have been collecting data for some time and have stored data on various systems and in various places without much process or policy for managing its use.”

For engineering specifically, it’s crucial to remember that one very important new component of GDPR is the concept of privacy by design, he adds. It means that any service or process using data has to take data protection into account from the very beginning. “The business has to be able to show that when designing new systems, security is a priority and compliance is closely monitored,” says Douetteau. “In the engineering sector, this is particularly relevant when talking about data from Internet of Things connected devices. With more and more new IoT use cases coming up, the GDPR privacy by design provision will start to come into play quickly.”

There will also be the changes that give data subjects not only the right to be forgotten, but also to access their data and know what it’s being used for. Besides knowing what data is stored where and being able to retrieve it, businesses will need to have processes in place to deal with these data subject requests in a timely fashion, adds Douetteau.

Ready or not

With only a few months to go, not everyone is ready for the upcoming changes, though. According to a survey by Ipswitch, a software developer for businesses, many companies do not have a Data Protection Officer in place, or don’t even know they need one – but they really do. A recent report by consulting firm Gartner predicts that even by the end of next year, more than half of firms affected by the GDPR will not be fully compliant with its requirements.

New regulations are ever more important now in light of the recent WannaCry ransomware attack, which crippled multiple organisations around the world. Businesses must reassess their security strategies as soon as they can, including endpoint security, to be compliant and avoid hefty fines when GDPR kicks in, says Richard Henderson, global security strategist at Absolute.

“With stricter notification windows and greater levels of data accountability, organisations must have a complete understanding of how they collect data, where it’s stored and how it’s managed in order to remain compliant,” he says. “The stakes are without doubt getting higher – you need only to look at the recent WannaCry attack, where lives and not just the financial and reputational state of a company is at risk, to recognise the need for a more coordinated management of data.” Right now, companies that breach data protection rules face relatively small fines. “Take the Talk Talk breach, for example,” says Henderson. “The company was fined just £400,000. However, under EU GDPR this could be nearly 200 times this amount.”

Douetteau agrees, stressing that the penalties for non-compliance of GDPR are massive – up to 4% of annual global turnover or €20 million, whichever is greater. However, he says, when one considers the cost of making the changes in order to comply, big businesses are likely to have a harder time, because they are generally less agile and have much more complex data systems and workflows.

Beyond Europe

GDPR forces another significant change: firms will have to have complete visibility into their endpoint assets at all times, to identify suspicious activity and take action, he says. Companies need to maintain a constant connection, and have the ability to remotely control data stored on endpoint devices to stop them becoming the gateway to a damaging breach, and subsequently protecting themselves from the repercussions of lax security.”

It’s not just Europe that will be affected. Despite originating in the EU, the new rules will affect many data controllers and processors outside Europe, says Bart Willemsen, research director at Gartner. “Threats of hefty fines, as well as the increasingly empowered position of individual data subjects tilt the business case for compliance and should cause decision makers to re-evaluate measures to safely process personal data,” he says.

So how should you prepare for the upcoming regulations?

The first thing, says Douetteau, is to start developing a strategy that revolves around data projects. Contained data projects make long-term GDPR compliance manageable for several reasons:

  • In terms of data protection, they keep access clearly controlled with only team members working on a particular project able to see relevant data.
  • They help manage data subject requests. If you can easily see what data is contained in a project and what transformations are being done on that data, these requests will be infinitely easier to manage.
  • Finally, with the requirement of consent and purpose of data collection, leveraging data projects allows for a white-box approach and ensures compliance – so that it’s clear what data is being used where and for what purpose.

There is another important element when it comes to preparing for GDPR, and that’s data lineage, says Douetteau. “Pieces of data are copied many times over, so being able to trace a particular piece of data through its lifecycle is critical, especially when it comes to compliance with data subject requests – particularly the right to be forgotten,” he says. “Businesses will have to start thinking more end-to-end and putting systems in place that show, visually, how data is being transformed from ingestion to final data product. This represents a major shift because teams that normally were working completely separately will have to start working together, collaborating in and working from the same central place.”

Gartner also stresses that it’s imperative to track all cross-border data flows. Data transfers to any of the 28 EU member states are still allowed, as well as to Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland – but Brexit may change things. Transfers to the 11 non-EU countries which the European Commission considers having an “adequate” level of protection (Andorra, Argentina, Canada (for commercial organisations), Faroe Islands, Guernsey, Israel, Isle of Man, Jersey, New Zealand, Switzerland and Uruguay) are also possible.

But outside of these areas the situation changes – and companies will have to use safeguards such as Binding Corporate Rules (BCRs) and standard contractual clauses. Outside of the EU, businesses processing personal data on EU residents will have to choose the correct approach to ensure compliance with GDPR, argues Gartner.

Being cyber-aware

No matter how well prepared for a potential cyber-attack you are, there is still a chance that hackers will sneak their way in. “Companies are no longer judged when this happens; instead they are judged on what they know about the breach and how fast they respond,” says Ross Brewer, vice president of LogRhythm, a security intelligence and analytics firm. “This will be exacerbated even more with the introduction of the short notification window. With only 72 hours to notify authorities and, in some cases those affected, companies will be under greater amounts of pressure to have full insight into the scope and scale of an attack as soon as it’s been identified.”

It will be essential for organisations to have an accurate idea of the ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘how’ and ‘how big’ within those three days, he says. Simply deploying firewalls or anti-virus software won’t be enough – businesses will need a more coordinated and efficient approach to threat detection. “Having an end-to-end threat lifecycle management processes that gives businesses the insight and full facts of a compromise from the offset will be vital, and businesses need to make sure they are adapting their strategies now so that they are fully prepared this time next year,” says Brewer.

BP funds AI development in oil and gas

BP Ventures, the investment arm of global energy giant BP, has awarded $20 million (£25.9 million) of funding to artificial intelligence and cognitive computing firm Beyond Ventures.

It is hoped the investment will accelerate the delivery of industrial-grade AI software, previously used in space missions, to combine human knowledge with machine learning and provide the energy sector with new levels of operational insight and process automation.

Caltech start-up Beyond Limits was launched in 2012 to commercialise cutting-edge IP after more than 20 years of successfully supporting NASA and the US space program.

Eyad Elyan, senior lecturer in computer science at Robert Gordon University, told Professional Engineering that the deal is much needed in the sector.  “There is an urgent need for disruptive change, machine learning and data science to improve the sector’s existing practices. BP is trying to develop solutions that think like humans, actually which could think better than humans, because humans are subjective. A minor human error could cost millions of pounds, therefore they need to capture this human knowledge, the only way to capture it is to automate it.”

Elyan said that the amount of money being invested suggests that BP wants to push data-driven practice in the sector. “When companies plan to drill a well, they bring in some experts together for a discussion, but they could use data already available to decide this. BP is making an excellent investment and it will pay off sooner than anyone will expect.”

The companies said the BP-Beyond Limits partnership could change the way the energy giant locates and develops reservoirs, produces and refines crude oil and markets and supplies refined products.

“Many companies within the industry are exploring the opportunities that artificial intelligence can make to oil and gas extraction, both to existing and new facilities,” Mike Tholen, upstream policy director at Oil & Gas UK, told PE. “Many companies are looking to bring their experience in AI from other industries and see how they can be adapted in their circumstances.”

Tholen said the technology has the potential to facilitate remote operations and allow the facilities to adapt more actively to the changing process parameters as fields progress through their operational life. It also offers the opportunity for increased efficiency.

“The industry recognises the opportunities presented by new technology and the advantages companies gain by adopting fresh technologies appropriate to their needs. It must also be recognised, however, that innovation has to be balanced with the proficient deployment of existing technologies,” Tholen added.

Factories and the cyber war

The WannaCry ransomware attack has put cyber security in the spotlight. How should manufacturers protect themselves from such threats in the future?

The attack claimed its first victim just before 9.30am on 12 May. As computer monitors flickered on and workers prepared for the day ahead, the dark red, slightly retro-looking window popped up on screens at Telefónica, a Spanish telecoms company. As a countdown began and the three-day deadline ticked closer, the WannaCry ransomware demanded $300 in Bitcoins in exchange for the safe return of files.

Within a day, the ransomware infected more than 230,000 computers in 150 countries. Russia, Ukraine, India and Taiwan were the worst-affected countries, with commercial targets including FedEx and German train firm Deutsche Bahn.

Two of the most high-profile victims were Nissan and Renault, in the UK and France respectively. Production at several factories ground to a halt and did not resume for days as the manufacturers dealt with the fallout.

Weeks after the attack, its effects are still being felt around the world. Some were quick to assign blame, with many fingers pointing at a government-linked group in North Korea.

But where is the path for recovery? How should manufacturers react and how should they protect themselves from future attacks?

Some have said the WannaCry attack did not reach its full potential, and the results of other types of hacks could be worse – even fatal.

‘We need a closer look at security’

As organisations around the world scrambled to work out how they had been infected, a common factor for many of them was Windows operating systems. The Windows vulnerability was revealed in a leak of secret information from the US National Security Agency in April, and Microsoft issued security updates shortly afterwards. However, not all users updated their systems and the patch did not cover the Server 2003 and XP systems, which are used by many organisations including the National Health Service. These two failures meant that many systems were vulnerable when the attack struck on 12 May.

For manufacturers such as Nissan and Renault, experts say the main routes for hackers were so-called ‘legacy’ systems running machinery. The software is often not intended to be linked to wider networks or the internet, but gradually becomes connected over the years as manufacturers decide against replacing expensive kit that still works on a daily basis.

Even newer robots can be vulnerable, as companies strive to embrace more automation and connectivity. With the Internet of Things (IoT) expanding by the day, tens of thousands of industrial machines can be found on public IP addresses, either providing a route for malware to spread throughout factories or becoming targets for malicious remote control themselves.

“There has been a belief that plants are inherently immune to some of these breaches and that was probably historically true, because they weren’t connected to anything,” says Don Rogers, head of manufacturing practice at IT systems integrator World Wide Technology. “But as we started connecting these systems to broader networks and ultimately to the internet – even indirectly – we have significantly increased our attack surface to the inside and outside of these manufacturing plants. So we need to take a much closer look at security.”

Safeguards not in place

There are several risks to manufacturers in the event of a hack, says Rogers. Production can be halted, as it was at Nissan and Renault, potentially losing companies huge amounts of money in staff pay and other costs. Hackers could also potentially access intellectual property and designs, stealing trade secrets to sell to competitors or blackmailing the victims.

Two other risks could prove even more serious for companies, their workers and the public. If hackers access robot controls, they could create slight defects in the products being built, whether cars, electronics, train parts or anything else. If the defects are spotted in quality control, companies might have to scrap whole batches of products, potentially losing vast amounts of money.

A more serious concern is defective products slipping through the quality control process and reaching the market, potentially putting the public at risk as the defects transform into more serious issues down the line. This could lead to deaths and even injuries, says a report from security company Trend Micro and the Polytechnic University of Milan. “Should micro-defects successfully evade detection by a vendor’s multiple checks, depending on the nature of the goods themselves, injury or fatality could occur,” says the report, Rogue Robots: Testing the Limits of an Industrial Robot’s Security.

Both Rogers and the authors of the report identify another major risk for factories using large automated machinery – hackers’ ability to remotely control or switch on robots, putting workers in danger. “We are talking about big industrial equipment here,” says Rogers. “If you are able to start and stop processes at whim, without regard to human safety, unauthorised control of those production lines could lead to injuries or fatalities. It is very dangerous, especially if you consider the ability of hackers to bypass safety systems which would normally prevent a worker from being injured.”

The report authors say they are in close communication with the makers of the robot they hacked during experiments. The vendor has issued patches to fix security flaws and worked with manufacturers to ensure they are used. However, the authors say that safety measures such as kill-switches and fences around robots are sometimes not used, meaning workers could still be at risk. “We have anecdotal evidence that these safeguards are not in place,” says Federico Maggi from Trend Micro. “Sometimes the safeguards are only a red line painted on the floor.”

Using physical barriers between workers and machinery is also being corroded by the rise of collaborative robots (see feature on page 24). The machines, known as cobots, are designed to work in harmony with human ‘colleagues’, physically interacting to complete a shared goal. The switch between manual and automatic control of the cobots is sometimes on ‘teach pendants’, handheld devices that can be wired or wireless, instead of hardwired physical switches. If a hacker gains control of the pendant, the report says, “the human operator would trust the robot when in manual mode and operate near it while an attacker could be silently changing the mode of operation and moving the robot arm at full speed, causing physical harm to the nearby human”.

With new technology such as cobots and IoT systems spreading, and fresh security issues bubbling to the surface as manufacturers connect old machinery to the internet, experts say firms need to act quickly to protect themselves, their workers and the public.

Build in protection

The Rogue Robots authors say three “fundamental laws” need to be built into manufacturing robots to protect against damage from hacks: they must refuse to execute orders to damage themselves; they must accurately ‘read’ from the physical world with sensors and ‘write’ with motors and tools; and they must never harm humans.

Practical cyber-security steps for manufacturers include extending practices accepted as standard in enterprise businesses, says Rogers. Manufacturers must monitor traffic content coming in and out of factories, and information security officers must confirm the identity of people operating machines, not limiting authentication for computing and network devices, he says.

Cyber security has often been an afterthought, says Rogers. He says IT organisations and manufacturers “haven’t enjoyed a close working relationship” but they must come together after the WannaCry attack highlighted issues.

Other experts say lawmakers should lead the way in ‘cyber hygiene’. Oliver Welch, head of security at manufacturers’ organisation the EEF, says the government “should be the trailblazer for the practice”.

The UK government has a list of cyber essentials that must be followed by any company working with a public body, including using boundary firewalls, malware protection and ‘patch management’. Any organisation can follow the checklist and apply for a cyber-essentials badge but the points should become part of mandatory accreditation from bodies such as the new National Cyber Security Centre, says Welch.

Next year, the EU General Data Protection Regulation will come into force. It extends the scope of European data protection laws to all foreign companies processing data from EU residents. Under the regulation, companies are required to disclose any loss of personal data owing to hacks and face fines of up to 4% of worldwide turnover. The regulation could encourage manufacturers to update cyber-security arrangements to avoid public shaming and fines. “If you are seen to be particularly vulnerable then there is of course a risk that will reflect on the business,” says Welch. “So prevention and proactivity are important as well as being able to clean it up afterwards. It’s a real wake-up call, the last couple of weeks, and people are now taking this more seriously.”

In the US, a more radical response to hacks is being suggested by a cross-party group of politicians. Hacked companies and individuals should be able to ‘reverse-hack’ the hackers, says Georgia congressman Tom Graves, disrupting the hack and collecting information for authorities.

However, commentators including security expert Graham Cluley suggest this could lead to wider damage, as hacked companies target the source of attacks – which could themselves be hacked computers, spreading the malware without their owners’ knowledge.

Perhaps it is best for manufacturers to start preparing for the next WannaCry – or something worse – before it strikes.


March 2010: 

Stuxnet worm starts spreading. The worm targets nuclear facilities in Iran, causing serious damage and disruption. Believed to have been developed by the US and Israel, the worm ‘escapes’ and infects computers around the world.

August 2012:

Shamoon computer virus infects Saudi oil company Aramco. The attack hits 35,000 computers, destroying many of them. Group named Cutting Sword of Justice claims responsibility for the attack, which forces Aramco to use fax machines and typewriters for a week.

April 2013: 

Anti-spam group Spamhaus is targeted by a massive distributed denial of service attack. The huge scale of the attack slows web traffic speed worldwide.

April 2014: 

The Heartbleed bug is discovered. An estimated 17% of secure web servers in the world are vulnerable to attack when Heartbleed is identified, leading many commentators to call the bug one of the worst security threats that has ever been encountered.

May 2017: 

The WannaCry ransomware infects more than 230,000 computers in many countries around the world.

The attack hits major organisations such as the National Health Service, and forces Nissan and Renault factories to halt production.


  • Use boundary firewalls to prevent unauthorised access to your organisation.
  • Use secure configurations when setting up systems.
  • Restrict access to controls to those who need it.
  • Use malware protection such as anti-virus software.
  • Update software frequently and ensure that security patches are used.

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The future of demand responsive transport 02 Jun 2017 Bill

Demand responsive transport 800
Demand responsive transport 800

In May 2017, the CTA launched a new project in collaboration with the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) to consider what major breakthroughs are driving the interest and growth in demand-responsive transport, and what that means for access and inclusion.

Demand-responsive transport, such as door-to-door and dial-a-ride services, are core business for community transport. It is a growing market with commercial operators moving into the space through brands such as ArrivaClick, Slide Bristol and Driving Miss Daisy UK and more wide-scale transformation through initiatives such as Mobility as a Service.

More and more of us are making journeys without fixed routes or timetables in vehicles we don’t own, often with people we don’t know. If this model is set to grow and become more mainstreamed then we need to talk about what that’s going to look and feel like.We need to ask how many of us will have this this as our main experience of transport and how do we make sure this boosts access and inclusion for the most vulnerable and potentially isolated groups in our communities.

I like to focus on three design principles for doing more and doing better for people who have poor access to transport and consequently face barriers to aspirations and achievement, and to having choice and control in their lives.

My first is that targeting improvements on those with the greatest needs, makes it better for everyone else too.

This is a simple premise – if something isn’t good for someone with a visual impairment, arthritis or Alzheimers then chances are it is not that great for lots of other people too.

By putting the needs of those who face the most disadvantage central to the design of any new service or infrastructure from the outset we can create many benefits and save time and money through not having to remedy so many problems that arise down the line. Better to build it now than fix it later.

It means we can find a better way of balancing and blending the convenience and speed which might be imperatives for many travellers with concerns about confidence and safety that may be felt more deeply by the most vulnerable.

Secondly, make sure supporting independence doesn’t create new forms of isolation

I often hear that the best way to manage demand better is to drive it down. My favourite is always that we can reduce the need to transport older people to the shops by helping them order their groceries online so they don’t need to go out.

Loneliness and isolation have been found not only to reduce overall health and wellbeing but also to increase the risk of dying prematurely in older age. Figures shared by the Campaign to End Loneliness show us that two fifths of all older people (about 3.9 million) say the television is their main company (Age UK, 2014) and the health effect that this can have on people’s mortality is comparable to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

Many service users and their representatives would rightly be resistant to innovations that reduce their social-connectedness and foster greater isolation. As would people from CTA’s member organisations, who wear their commitment to keeping people connected and tackling isolation on their sleeves

This is relevant to this discussion as many of the innovations we hear about in the transport space are about personalisation and autonomy. If we’re being pro-social then we must champion the merits of a shared transport experience where taking a journey with others helps our physical and mental well-being.

My last is built on the best of what’s there already   

CTA sometimes get asked to discuss ideas for new services and a recurring theme is the ‘year zero’ approach, talking about a place as if there’s nothing there already.

A more integrated passenger transport network that meets more needs has to be built from the ground up. This means being mindful of, and building on, existing assets and capacity within communities so the ‘ground-up’ part is authentic and rooted in the experiences of people who know the patch and the priorities.

This project aims to launch this report at our Westminster conference which you can book to attend. More information to follow in the coming weeks, but if you have any comments or thoughts contact us,