Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Mantras of the Smart City- 1

Cities are complex real time systems that generate huge amounts of data. The intelligent use of this data, supported by information and communication technologies, can make it easier to tackle present and future challenges. Smart cities take full advantage of the potential of these technological advances to save costs, by being more efficient, provide new economic and social services, reduce their environmental footprint, stimulate local innovation and progress towards new forms of governance.

Smart Cities are based on the technological solutions from sensors to balanced scorecards that improve cities’ efficiency and sustainability. These days, every city wants to be Smart, but it is not that simple. Many cities invest in technology to become a Smart City without first considering their needs and what they wish to achieve with all this. Cities sometimes define a platform, or several platforms, only to discover that they have isolated, independent systems, from which they cannot gather and integrate data in order to be able to obtain valuable information. A Smart City is capable of capturing the useful data generated in it, transporting them through communication networks, centralizing them in a balanced scorecard and being able to provide an appropriate response in real time, enabling proper operation of infrastructure and services. Additionally, it can anticipate possible incidents and offer appropriate urban solutions.

The design of a Smart City is necessarily a shared work at three levels. Public authority leadership, from the party responsible for city design and management, is as necessary as the collaboration of private companies as service providers. And of course, the active involvement of citizens as end users is just as important. All over the world, industrialisation and knowledge-dominated service economies are reinforcing the role of urban centres.

Many cities have grown exponentially over the last few decades, but the smaller ones, in industrialised countries, are also expanding. This growth comes with an environmental and social cost for both the cities and the people who live in them. Mobility in the early 21st century is changing and also is shrinking cities, smart technology and new behaviours are changing the way they move.

Cities may be at different stages of maturity around the world, but they all have to bring their development onto a sustainable path. Integrated Mobility Plans (IMPs) are key tools that can be used to address this challenge. An IMP provides a vision for successful urban mobility, and ensures that people and places can connect, both now and in the future. Therefore, numerous cities world-wide are thinking of, or have already written IMPs.

They are also looking at how technology, especially ICT can help reach a more efficient level of organisation, and lead the way in becoming a smart city. A wider city plan designating public transport as the backbone of the sustainable urban mobility system must be complemented and supported by efforts in other local policy areas, such as land-use planning, mobility management, combined mobility, freight. Other key sectors, such as environment, energy, social services and health care are also an important part of the development.

Drawing up the plan will bring stakeholders from all sectors together around the same table, thus helping to understand challenges from different angles. This also means consulting citizens and stakeholders during the development phase of the plan. But the main challenge lies in how these plans can be effectively implemented.

However there appear to have been three main mantras for smart cities, number one- embraced technology and development, moving tech company driven, to city government driver, to, finally, citizen driven. Shall discuss more in next post.......


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