Future City Glasgow

Future City Glasgow


In 2013, Glasgow City Council beat 29 other UK cities to win £24million from the UK Government’s innovation agency, the Technology Strategy Board, after showing how the city could innovatively integrate transport, communications and other infrastructure to improve the city’s economy, quality of life and reduce environmental impact.

The Future City Glasgow programme was born. The city set out on a journey of review, innovation, research and development in a project which will deliver a lasting legacy to Glasgow’s residents, businesses and visitors. This paper offers an insight into some of the many projects which are benefiting from a spatial-data approach, the benefits they offer to the city and the potential for future service improvements and operational efficiency gains.

Future City Glasgow

A Smart City is one which uses data and technology to enhance its citizen-experience and services. Glasgow takes the Smart Cities agenda to a higher level by promoting a Future Cities agenda; one where it shares information across systems and platforms and where citizens, businesses and partners are actively encouraged to participate in information and data sharing.

Linked-data algorithms are used to identify patterns or trends across formerly disparate data and, by so doing, the council better responds to and understands how the modern city lives and breathes. Glasgow City Council is a significant contributor to the life of Glasgow but these new ways of working give it a better insight into parts of the city not solely related to its services.

Spatial Information

As Glasgow gets smarter in how data is used, it learns that decision making can be informed by data which formerly stood alone but now, with a Future Cities approach, gives policy makers and decision makers a far more holistic view of the council and its environs. In becoming, embracing and promoting a Future City, Glasgow is realigning its decision making processes to this new way of thinking.

The power of spatial data is becoming more apparent. There are clear benefits to inventory and asset management planning: adding a spatial element which describes, with certainty, where the asset or inventory item is, improves response times, reduces demand impact and aids work schedule and programme planning.

Extensive use of spatial information also enhances modelling and visualisation capability which, in turn, enhances understanding of cause-and-effect scenarios and improves knowledge and interpretation and analysis of consequential outcomes for specific changes to the asset and how these changes impact on surroundings.

Modelling for Flood Defence Works

In Glasgow, the recent focus of active and ongoing Emergency Risk Reduction predominantly has been flooding. Glasgow sits astride the River Clyde, a significant waterway that is changing from its historic shipbuilding base to an attractive business and leisure asset. Several tributary rivers flow into the Clyde, including the White Cart Water.

Using digital representations of the river network in Glasgow and its surrounding areas, coupled with detailed terrain modelling, including geo-referenced infrastructure assets from Glasgow’s own asset base and associated drainage networks, a detailed flood model was created for the White Cart Water river basin. This allowed Glasgow to measure the impact of specified flood events; the extent of flooding and the height of floodwaters. Appropriate flood defence designs were promoted and built. The improvements associated with this flood modelling project are detailed in Table 1.




1700 residential buildings and 40 businesses at risk

Reduced height of flood attenuation wall in urban areas Flooding avoided during recent significant flood events
20 significant floods in last 100 years Green habitat protection, creation and enhancement £15M in flood damages avoided
Flood damages exceed £100M Multi-agency partnership working

Reduced residential and business insurance premiums
Insurance cover withdrawn

Table 1: White Cart Water Flood Defences

Glasgow Operations Centre

The Glasgow Integrated Operations Centre is central to the city’s emergency response capability and it uses Smart Cities data and systems technology to enhance the city’s capability and readiness for major civil events; ranging from a fatal helicopter crash in the city centre in November 2013 to a major world event like the Commonwealth Games in July 2014.

Using state-of-the-art systems and technology Glasgow is able to link disparate data and information sets from within the council and from several external partners to find synergies which enhance the city’s effectiveness and enable a fast and reliable response. The availability of linked data, including spatial data, means all this analysis and response is based on live and up-to-date information, all readily accessible.

Geo-referenced Information and Glasgow’s Services

The use of geo-referenced information underpins a significant number of Glasgow’s normal operations and services. The interesting aspect of the geo-referenced data is that many of the users are unaware of the underlying geo-data whilst being very interested in and informed by the output – such is the power of geo-data to an organisations capability. Examples of Glasgow’s services underpinned by geo-referenced data include:

The pre-programmed routing and in-cab instruction of the roads winter gritting fleet; maximising coverage whilst minimising travel time and fleet mileage. This results in operational cost savings and improved response times.

The automatic adjustment of traffic signal sequences to maintain adherence to bus timetables – specifically for buses that are running late. This enables a better public transport service – a critical determinant of a good user experience in a major urban environment.

The automatic adjustment of street lighting levels in response to measured noise levels and footfall, creating a safer community where fear of crime and disturbance is minimised.

The strategic and operational planning of major pedestrian concentrations, e.g. the Commonwealth Games ceremonies and sporting events associated with venues across the city. By modelling where the major pedestrian flows may be then collating that with localised and enhanced public transport operations, Glasgow can mitigate against risk of chaotic pedestrian flows and the physical hazards they present.

Putting It All Together

Disparate and separate data sets are of lower value to an organisation, regardless of their worth to a specific department, than the same information collated and linked against other data. The power of geospatial data and its analysis is in finding patterns and trends in areas previously not seen.

Glasgow is building a Future City Hub: a technology platform that manages linked data, its publication and its currency. Data is published through OPEN principles and is accessible to anyone through a series of web portals and apps. Any user may customise their experience through preferences and filters then decide what to do with the information – subject to relevant licensing agreements.

Smart City vs. Future City

What’s the difference: Smart vs. Future? It’s the Future Cities content that provides user engagement and makes it a true partnership, with information and development opportunities flowing in all directions.

Service delivery is enhanced through Glasgow’s state-of-the-art Operations Centre: a custom-built operations, monitoring and coordination centre. It is staffed by multi-agency colleagues and delivers an enhanced response capability to events, emergencies and business-as-usual occurrences.

Not only is Glasgow embracing the opportunities of linked data, it also works in an OPEN environment. For sure, we are not finished. The Future City Glasgow demonstrator programme has offered a taste of the future and it is very appealing. As Glasgow embraces more and more data synergies, engaging with more and more partners, the service and response capacity and capability will improve whilst Glasgow’s employees will benefit from working with and alongside others.

Exciting things are happening in Glasgow and everyone can be a part of it.


The Future City Glasgow geo-referenced data and the subsequent linked data output is becoming an essential tool for day-to-day use by individuals; it has the potential to be used in application development by innovative entrepreneurs, and as a basis for option appraisal and development within the city.

Glasgow’s citizens will become an increasingly integral part of the council’s service delivery standards: they will help drive change and innovation with staff in partner organisations. The council and its partners will move from providers of a service for citizens towards providing a service with citizens. Service boundaries will be more flexible, dialogue will develop and the citizens will see and understand what goes on in our city – and feel more able to influence change.

Glasgow is on the cusp of something exciting: a different way of decision-making, informed by geospatial information. No longer is geospatial data to be used solely for inventory management or service planning but it is gradually repositioning into the realm of strategic decision making and policy development. Spatial data is coming of age in Glasgow – what an opportunity to show the power of geospatial information and how, with early intervention and adoption of its capabilities, an organisation can enhance its operations and services for the benefit of its employees and customers.