As MIPIM comes to a close, Deloitte Real Estate’s delegation reflects on one of the big themes of this year’s event - the evolution of Smart Cities
Speaking at this year’s MIPIM, a clear theme to emerge has been the consistent and obvious challenge that affects cities all over the globe, which is how we can utilise technology to shape the cities of the future.
MIPIM provides a unique opportunity for European Cities to meet and discuss the challenges that we all face – meeting the demands of growing populations, air quality, retaining the sense of community and place, and embracing the opportunities of Digital technology, AI, and renewable energy.
At our European Smart Cities Dinner on day one of MIPIM, we brought together leaders from across major European cities such as Berlin, Barcelona, Edinburgh, Stockholm, and a host of others to address the challenges each location is facing and how each is using technology to plan ahead.
Key themes to emerge included the need to use technology to engage with citizens.
In Cascais, Portugal, for example, representatives discussed their Participatory Funding & Civic Points App, which allows citizens to shape the city in which they reside. Current outputs of this commitment include increased engagement in local elections, while the ‘Cascais app’, which gives credit for voluntary work that can be used for discounts on public services, has helped to improve the welfare of the city and the people in it.
Also discussed were the challenges associated with making technology shareable and, while technology has always shaped places, it takes more than the presence of technology to breathe life into our cities. Planning the cities of the future must have collaboration at its core.
This is a theme echoed by Sir Richard Leese of Manchester City Council. Speaking on day two at Deloitte’s sponsored panel on the Manchester stand, his view that the task to make technology invisible and joined up was one shared by many delegates at MIPIM, and is reflected in the projects Manchester has nurtured in recent years.
Manchester’s City Verve project, for example, seeks to gather data about transport, energy use, culture and citizen engagement in an effort to improve public services. Talking bus stops are also planned, which allow users to have a dialogue with the transport system, while remote sensing has the potential for multiple uses, including helping district nurses care for their patients.
Belfast is building a world class creative and technology sector around a 100 GB link to the US. This platform, combined with the grit, vision and entrepreneurial skills of the business community, Universities and City has attracted the largest Cyber Security cluster outside the US, film studios making global brands such as Game of Thrones, and start-up businesses making break throughs in cognitive therapy.
While the technological possibilities are almost endless, at the heart of these initiatives needs to be a robust strategy and collaboration. Manchester is creating its first city wide spatial plan in an attempt to bring its ten City Districts together. Technology will be critical to communicating that plan to all sectors of society and age groups, particularly the young people for whom the plan will shape their futures.
Manchester and cities across Europe will need to use technology to reach out and engage with citizens about what they want their city to look like. Further than increasing citizen participation, technology should be a tool to strengthen democracy.
Our attendance at MIPIM has offered a great deal of insight into the future of our cities. What is clear amongst the noise generated around smart cities is that there is no one size fits all solution.
In India it is about managing rapid urbanisation and pollution, while in the US it is all about mobility. Europe is different – there are mature cities hundreds of centuries old that have embraced technology as it has evolved through history. The city landscapes are set, and so it is about improving the quality of life.
Above all, however, it is all about engagement, and using technology to tackle social inequality. Next year, we hope to reflect on even greater progress as we learn from the best practice being shared by the smart cities of tomorrow.