Smart Cities need Smart Thinkers

It has been argued that a smart city is one which uses a network of sensors to bring information for analysis, with the end result of increased effectiveness of the management of a variety of systems. However, this alone will not solve all of the problems a city faces, for example, ensuring citizens health, security, and wellbeing. Many cities also face difficulties in terms of finance and sustainability. It will take more than just some sensors to revolutionise city living, although they are certainly a necessary aspect.

Over 50% of the world’s population resides in cities today, accounting for 75% of global energy consumption and produce 70% of greenhouse gases. They are all facing challenges through their changing demographics, pollution, overloaded physical and social infrastructure, traffic, crime and the scarcity of resources such as water and energy. However, cities cannot simply focus on fixing these problems as they are also struggling to compete with each other for talent, jobs and investment. They must also reduce their operating costs and manage existing debt.

The key to the Smart City venture lies in the increased efficiency of current systems, and through the creation of new ones which enable citizen to interact digitally with their environment. Robin Daniels of Living PlanIT said: “Being smart is about deploying intelligence to enhance value.”

Living PlanIT have provided several demonstrations which showcased the ways in which technology can enhance every aspect of life. In one such display, it was explained how the fire service could maximise the pressure of water, unlock building doors and check in on peoples location.

One IBM study in collaboration with Streetline and Citibank discovered that 50% of L.A traffic was due to people attempting to find parking spaces. This number could be reduced, and thus the carbon emissions and the rate of oil consumption, by the use of a smart parking app which enables people to locate free parking spaces and book them prior to leaving home.

However, Paolo Stark, the Chief Executive of Siemens Brazil, raised the point that while smart cities are providing a step forward, the more important issue is analysing the direct and indirect benefits of these actions. He suggests that a Smart City is an absolute term, a complete project, whereas the journey to becoming a Smarter City is an ongoing process. Smarter Cities look at the strategic benefits of investment from attracting inhabitant and industry from cleaner water, effective transportation and better healthcare – one where a sustainable transformation is taking place.