A quantum leap in the development of technology has been seen over recent years. The convergence of rapid technological advancements and urban planning is driving an evolution of human behaviour, and encouraging us to reconsider the way that we communicate, live, work and play. Such advances are infiltrating the way in which modern cities work.
A fully integrated, intelligent and adaptive city infrastructure that can provide a whole range of demand-responsive services and real-time incident management capabilities is an eye-catching prospect, but how do we continue to embrace the opportunities this presents for generations to come?
A ‘smart city’ is an urban area that uses a whole spectrum of electronic data collection to gain information. This information is used to manage assets, services and resources effectively, efficiently and economically. This includes data collected from citizens and their network of smart devices – the Internet of Things (IoT). This data is then processed and analysed to monitor and manage traffic and transportation systems, water supply networks and waste management as well as other services that are fundamental to the day-to-day operation of society.
The three key aims of a smart city could be:
- To improve the quality of life for its citizens
The city’s infrastructure can provide the insights and information needed to protect and advance our well-being. For example, a comprehensive electronic database of patients’ medical records could be used to make strategic healthcare infrastructure decisions based on demand for medical services altering the requirements around healthcare estate provisions and patients pathways.
- To accelerate economic growth opportunities
Smart cities significantly transform the way we live and how our cities operate by altering the economy into a more proactive, self-governing entity. Urbanisation and economic growth go hand-in-hand. Initial research also suggests that the economy grows quicker in smart cities compared to non-smart cities. Millennials gravitate more towards smart cities.
- To become a sustainable and efficient city
The convergence between digital technology and the world of energy will pave the way for a new ecosystem of services which will allow for a more efficient use energy. For example, technology that controls the energy consumption of buildings, reduces waste and produces less pollution.
Although the concept of a smart city is appealing, challenges do exist which include funding, citizen engagement and data security. It is therefore important that local governments consult for guidance as they embrace this opportunity.
Businesses, governments and policy-makers would benefit from preparing for future technologies today. For example, the CityVerve project, which was launched in Manchester brings together the pioneering thinkers and most innovative uses of the IoT to redefine ‘smart’ in the context of a living, working city. Its focus is to build and maintain a smarter, more connected Manchester, creating a city that uses technology to meet the complex needs of its citizens. Businesses that want to be actively involved in the ‘smart’ city journey will need to understand how technology will impact the economy, whilst local governments need to empower the ‘smart’ citizen and implement mechanisms that protect the privacy and data of society. Collectively, this will allow society to realise the full potential of what a ‘smart’ city can offer.