Smart Cities have become a very familiar idea: communities made to run as smoothly and safely as a giant machine via sensors and artificial intelligence, intelligent transport networks, autonomous vehicles, intelligent buildings, smart energy and water supplies. Delivering the vision is something else.

The array of technologies need to be tested and, critically, exposed to the mess of real life and real conditions, the full panoply of the unexpected, extreme weather events and potential for malicious activity. Smart systems need to be able to both made economically viable for emerging economies, as well as implemented alongside ageing infrastructure. The technology needs hard proof, and its own world of governance and regulation, standards and novel business models.

A model for smart living also needs to include sympathetic integration with the natural environment, based on an understanding of the full value of ‘natural capital’.

Cranfield University is situated at the centre of the Oxford-Cambridge arc, adjacent to the new town of Milton Keynes. Its balance of highly-planned transport infrastructure, smart grid for electric vehicle charging, new technology initiatives and large expanses of parkland and woodland has made it an important example for planners internationally.

This challenge area links to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for Sustainable Cities and Communities - specifically the aim by 2030 to “provide access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all, improving road safety, notably by expanding public transport, with special attention to the needs of those in vulnerable situations, women, children, persons with disabilities and older persons”.