Despite the increasing investment in smart city initiatives across the UK, new research conducted by communications infrastructure and media services company Arqiva and YouGov has found that 96% of Brits surveyed online are not aware of any “smart city” initiatives being run by their local city council in the last year.

Linked perhaps to this lack of knowledge is an ongoing confusion about the benefits such projects could bring for cities and their inhabitants. While almost a third (29%) of those we spoke to thought that the greatest benefit of a ‘connected city’ would be a better living environment for residents, nearly one in four (23%) were unclear on any one main benefit.

The results also revealed some confusing disconnects between the top city issues identified and where residents were telling councils to prioritise their smart spending. While traffic congestion was most commonly identified both as a problem (57%) and smart technology spending priority (33%) – particularly for respondents in the South (64% & 39%), the Midlands (64% & 41%) and London (64% & 32%), smart technology spending on the second most identified issue – parking (43%) – drew priority support from less than one in ten British adults (7%). Surprisingly it was in Wales that parking was a particular concern, with 54% of Welsh respondents saying finding a parking space was an issue for their nearest city.

Sean Weir, Business Development Director of Smart Metering and M2M at Arqiva said, “There seems to be a dire lack of understanding of the progress and impact being made by the UK’s cities – resulting in almost half of our citizens (48%) feeling that smart cities across the UK are still more than five years away. Without the proper support these initiatives will die on their feet, so far greater communication is needed on what exactly is happening and why people should care.”

“Many smart city initiatives are only small scale pilot or lab-based experiments and it appears that many cities lack the ability to roll-out large scale smart projects that would truly make a difference to local citizens.”

Looking to the residents and workforce of the future, the importance of getting smart city initiatives right came through strongly in the results. Not only did over a third (37%) of 18-24 year olds claim to be passionate about their nearest city becoming smart, but that age group also said (33%) they would consider moving to another city if it was smarter than their own.

“Councils desperately need to find a way to harness the enthusiasm of the tech-savvy younger generation,” concluded Weir. “If done correctly, they create powerful advocates to spread awareness – if done wrong, and they risk their city’s economic future.”