Learn about the term smart city.
- We've discussed how cities have blossomed over the past century. More than 50% of humans live in an urban environment and billions more will join by mid-century. Cities have improved the lives of billions of humans providing shelter, food, jobs, incredible conveniences, abundant entertainment, and extensive life-supporting services like modern healthcare, and regulations that reduce accidents.
But cities continue to have major challenges. Massive populations are over burdening services. Poverty and crime is still far too high. Opportunities for individual success including education is not evenly distributed. Even in cities with disproportionate resources relative to cities in other countries, the ability to provide high quality, high performance services is challenged.
With cities continuing to grow and citizen expectations also increasing we will need to rethink how cities are built and run. Without question technology will play a central role. When city leaders make a conscience decision to tackle some of their most intractable issues in a strategic and sustainable manner using new thinking and new technologies they are announcing their intent to create a Smart City.
So what is a Smart City? Right now there exists no universally agreed definition. As with any emerging domain agreement will take time as experts, practitioners, and other stakeholders slowly coalesce around an acceptable definition. There are four consistent high level themes that are emerging that reflect the motivation for developing Smart Cities. Let's look at these four themes in terms of city layers.
At the base level, we are concerned with infrastructure. For example, is the city environment served by efficient and high quality transportation options? This might include choices in buses, rail and on-demand cars, bike corridors and long, contiguous pedestrian walkways. We are interested in the physical qualities such as bridges, buildings and pipes. At this level we are also concerned with items such as energy infrastructure and sustainability initiatives.
For example, what proportion of energy generation is provided by renewables, such as solar, verses coal power plants. The next layer is city and government operations. This can include a wide variety of areas such as libraries, parks, health systems, public safety and democratic instruments like elections and oversight committees. Do each of these run efficiently? Are they accessible for everyone? And is the data and information they create generally open to all? Next is a critical component of any urban environment.
And this has to do with the economics. Here we're interested in the financial aspect of the community. What are the dominant industries? How are people employed? What is being done to attract and retain quality employment opportunities for a diversity of citizens? As one example, Smart Cities sometimes create special economic zones that provide incentives for new industries in order to kickstart new opportunities. Finally, the last layer has to do with civic engagement.
Here we are referring to the ability, enthusiasm and entry points for a wide variety stakeholders, citizens, academics, entrepreneurs and industry to participate in improving their community. It's becoming clear that with the complexity and challenges facing cities local governments are not able to address everything. A city that brings in a wide variety of stakeholders and creates productive partnerships can deliver more solutions and be more democratic than those that don't.
The Smart City's council and network of companies advised by universities, laboratories, and standard bodies maintain that Smart Cities embody three core values, livability, workability and sustainability. I've reviewed many sources that range from academia to industry and, in addition to my own experiences, I've developed the following definition. A Smart City is urbanization that uses innovative technology to enhance community services and economic opportunities, that improves city infrastructure, reduces costs and resource consumption, and increases civic engagement.
It's the specific focus on the role of innovative technology that differentiates Smart City strategies from other approaches. Rather than being relegated to a supporting role technology is central. A Smart City is a system of systems. That said, it remains important to stress that the outcomes of successful initiates within a Smart City strategy are not the attend and technologies but rather improved human experiences.
Despite an emphasis on technology the software and systems should largely dissipate into the fabric of everyday urban life remaining largely invisible, relative to our day to day human needs.
- The challenges of rapid urban development
- Understanding the basic functions and needs of 21st century cities
- Exploring what makes a smart city smart
- How smart cities are planned and maintained
- The role of big data in driving urban innovation
- Open data and smart cities
- Smart cities and the Internet of Things