Tim Smedley

I'm a freelance writer. I specialise in sustainability, work, and urban innovation.
Frequent journalist, sometime ghostwriter, book author in progress.
Welcome to my portfolio website. This isn't everything I've ever written, more a mix of highlights from my archive plus recent feature articles. Check out the tabs above to browse by subject - and get in touch via my contact page.
Publications include: The Financial Times, The Guardian, BBC, The Sunday Times, New Scientist, Third Sector, Management Today, Raconteur, People Management, Work., First Voice
BBC Future

How the world’s biggest cities are fighting smog

For three days in March 2016, 10 London pigeons became famous. Seeing pigeons take to the sky from Primrose Hill in north London was not unusual in itself. But these pigeons were wearing backpacks. And the backpacks were monitoring air pollution. Once in the air, the backpacks sent live air-quality updates via tweets to the smartphones of the Londoners below. In almost all cases, the readings were not good. London’s air pollution problem has been getting worse for years, and it often rises to more than three times the European Union’s legal limit.
BBC Future

Is this the world's smartest toilet?

A warm toilet seat isn’t most people’s idea of heaven, typically indicating a previous occupant only recently departed. And turning to your side to find no toilet paper, only smooth walls and a remote control, may seem positively hellish. However, this remote control has washing and drying options. Press it, and a robot arm slides out underneath you, offering a range of water jet speeds and angles, followed by a hot air finale. When you stand up, the toilet closes its lid, flushes itself, and then self-cleans using UV-light.
BBC Capital

Why young Londoners are moving to houseboats

Many Londoners would be envious of the postcodes Matthew Winters has lived in: the likes of Broadway Market, Angel, Camden, and Little Venice are amongst the city’s most hip and expensive. Many more would covet his electricity bill: £600 ($754) for the next 15 years. How, then, is he only 24 and a resident of London for just two years? Winters, an actor, is part of a booming trend for houseboat living among young Londoners. And specifically for what’s known as a ‘continuous cruising’ (or ‘CC-in
Financial Times

The bank boss with an environmentalist bent

Despite becoming the UK’s managing director of Triodos bank this spring, Bevis Watts maintains that he is “first and foremost an environmentalist”. Triodos’s mission is to lend money only to those who promote “positive social, environmental and cultural change”. The Dutch bank, which has €12bn of assets under management, is part of a booming trend. In 2015, the responsible lending market in the UK grew 45 per cent, according to a report by the Community Development Finance Association and PwC. Mr Watts’s CV does not read like that of the average bank executive. The 41-year-old has a PhD in recycling strategies and studied business at Swansea University primarily because it included a year abroad. His chosen destination, Sweden, was to transform his life. “I became conscious of a society that had a very different relationship with the natural environment and wellbeing, and how corporations consciously thought about it,” he recalls in his central Bristol office.
BBC

Careers you thought paid megabucks

We all know the type. The architects, property moguls and professors, who drive flashy cars and shower themselves with bank notes. Except the truth is, we only think we know their type. Our image of how much others are earning often doesn’t match the reality. While many professionals bring home above the national average wage, are they really as wealthy as we think given the years of student loans they rack up? BBC Capital set out to investigate...
The Guardian

Why leaders ignore new technology at their peril

Business leaders used to get by without knowing much about technology – they had an IT department to deal with that sort of thing. However, technology products and services now pervade every industry, and businesses that don’t understand them are in danger of being usurped. Uber’s impact on the taxi and automotive industries is a case in point. While established manufacturers and car hire firms continued to focus on hardware – the cars and the user experience – Uber’s simple software app linked...
Raconteur, The Times

Developing countries lead in clean energy

Renewable energy used to be deemed unaffordable for developing countries. Wind and solar were rich country luxuries, while 'third world' economies could only be expected to grow on a diet of dirty fossil fuels. As recently as June 2014, Bill Gates blogged: “Poor countries… can’t afford today’s expensive clean energy solutions and we can’t expect them to wait for the technology to get cheaper.” However, the past two years have seen this received wisdom turned on its head...
Financial Times

At Work with the FT: Joanna Jensen, founder and CEO, Childs Farm

Joanna Jensen is having to sell her stables. The former horse breeder who left a career in investment banking says her children’s toiletries business “has just taken over my life — I don’t have time to ride”. Her two daughters Mimi, 10, and Bella, seven, are more into athletics than horses, she sighs. She does, however, have her daughters to thank for the new venture — Childs Farm — which began as a homemade recipe to soothe their sensitive skin in 2010. It is now a fully fledged business with a £2.1m turnover in 2015. This year looks to be stronger still, with the products launched in Co-op supermarkets this April, a suncare range selling in Waitrose, and a new body wash for sale at Boots in June.
The Guardian

Wearables for babies: saving lives or instilling fear in parents?

Following the success of adult fitness wearables like Fitbit, new companies are connecting babies to smartphone apps and giving parents live information about their baby’s breathing, skin temperature, heart rate and sleeping patterns. The Owlet has adapted pulse oximetry technology (the clip they put on your finger in hospitals to monitor heart rate) to create a baby sock that monitors heart rate and oxygen levels. Sproutling has integrated the same technology into a strap that goes round th
Financial Times

Interview: Fiona Dawson, global president, Mars foods

At the Mars Foods testing centre in rural Leicestershire, Fiona Dawson greets the FT having just tasted new recipes. “We had salad with wholegrain, new dipping sauces, lasagne and stir-fry,” she says. Does she like the taste of Dolmio and Uncle Ben’s sauces? “Thankfully, I’m a big fan! I don’t think you could do a job like mine without loving your products.” As global president of Mars food, drinks, and multisales, one of about a dozen senior executives who report to Grant F Reid, the company president, Ms Dawson’s office is at headquarters in Brussels. She lives with her family in Berkshire, and spends about 70 per cent of her time on the road. “This is an unusual week for me to be in the UK — I was in the US last week, will be there again next week, I will be in Brussels the week after,” she says. “But when I am home I work from home — I have a unit set up with video conferencing.”
Financial Times

At Work with the FT: James Thornton, ClientEarth

At ClientEarth’s offices in east London, glass walls overlook leafy London Fields. James Thornton, 62, founder and chief executive, is an avid ornithologist, so bird feeders hang outside. The 60 or so lawyers occupied by fossil fuel, fisheries and air pollution law, enjoy fittingly green offices. Mr Thornton, who started the firm from a desk in a one-bedroom flat 10 years ago, greets the FT with warmth, before locking eyes in the manner of a Zen priest — which, incidentally, he also happens to be.
The Guardian

Swings, slides and iPads: the gaming companies targeting kids' outdoor play

Three-quarters of UK children now spend less time outside than prison inmates, according to a new survey, with the lure of digital technology partly to blame. But, in a world where gaming and screen time are an everyday reality, could the right technology actually get more kids to play outdoors? Hybrid Play is a Spanish start-up which uses augmented reality (AR) – patching computer imagery on to real life – to transform playgrounds into video games. A wireless sensor resembling an over-sized cl
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