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Urban Connectivity - The Next Big Thing?

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Many people will have heard the Government and tech experts talking about the concept of connected cities. £100million in public spending has been set aside under the Urban Broadband Fund as part of a commitment to making high speed broadband available to everyone in the UK, no matter where they happen to live. That's simply the beginning of a move towards connecting up people living in the UK's towns and cities. Very soon technology will have advanced to the stage where it touches each and every part of our daily lives. But what's happening already and what will be possible in the future?

If we think about healthcare, remote diagnosis is already being rolled out across the UK thanks to fast connectivity. In Lancashire and Cumbria, eight hospitals are running video conferencing technology to help them bring specialist consultants to stroke patients faster than before. Working with us, they've created a secure remote video diagnosis service that improves the prognosis for patients who have strokes out of hours (at evenings and weekends).

We're also working with local authorities in Leeds and Bradford to launch small cell technology. These innovative, lamppost-mounted devices the size of a shoe box are now delivering free public Wi-Fi in key city centre locations and will soon be helping mobile operators to meet the huge demand for data in urban areas. But that's really just the start of exciting things to come.

Just recently we spoke to some of the brightest minds in futurology, including professors from MIT and the London School of Economics about what's happening now and how they expect it to change in the future.

Education is a great example. In London, over 3,000 schools are already being connected to a superfast network as the result of an initiative led by the London Grid for Learning. In a few years technology that really captures children's attention, like egaming and live virtual foreign exchanges being held with students from around the world, will become the norm in our classrooms. Parents will get involved too by accessing their child's work or taking a look at some what they're learning that week on tablets, having a more direct link with teachers.

At work we could even see interactive meetings being held with avatars of our colleagues, meaning that we can work from home and never lose touch. 3D printers will also change the way we work and could provide the basis for GPs to hold appointments with housebound patients via webcam. Prescriptions can be issued and medication printed in the home. No longer will people struggle to get to a doctor when the roads are icy or transport is difficult, or waste valuable time in traffic jams on their way to work. Instead we'll have more choice and more flexibility. It's clear that this will have a positive impact on the environment and the economy.

There's no doubt about it, society will soon be underpinned by robust, reliable, and fast connectivity. It will take a blend of different technologies and a closer working relationship between suppliers and the government, but the results are already being realised and the future is very exciting indeed.