Smart cities use data and technology to create efficiencies, improve sustainability, create economic development, and enhance quality of life factors for people living and working in the city. It also means that the city has a smarter energy infrastructure. Smart cities use various physical devices connected to the Internet of Things to optimise efficiency.
There are many cities around the world that are adopting the smart city strategy including Amsterdam, Barcelona, Columbus, Dubai, Dublin, London, Manchester, Madrid, Malta, Milan, Milton Keynes, New Songdo City, New York, San Leandro, Santa Cruz, Stockholm and many cities in India. Also Singapore has embarked to become the first Smart Nation.
So what are some of the features that make a smart city ‘smart’? Smart Cities will endeavour to use technology, information and data to improve infrastructure and services. This includes access to water, electricity, affordable homes, education and health services and IT connectivity.
A greater number of government services will be offered online, known as e-governance, which will work especially well on mobile phones, making public services more affordable, and enhancing accountability and transparency. Citizens will be active participants in government, and would be able to provide feedback on e-groups.
Urban mobility will be enhanced by increased access to public transport and innovative solutions such as Smart Parking, Intelligent Traffic Management and Integrated Multi-Modal Transport. Neighbourhoods will be more pedestrian and cyclist-friendly. Citizens will be able to walk or cycle to places where key administrative services are provided.
Smart City governments will redevelop poorly-planned areas such as slums, endeavour to make neighbourhoods less disaster-prone, create new living spaces to accommodate a growing populace and create and maintain open spaces such as parks, playgrounds and recreational spaces to alleviate urban heat effects and enhance the standard of living. Video surveillance will be used to track criminal activity and security measures are taken to protect senior citizens, women and children.
Efforts will also be made by cities to generate energy and create compost from waste, reduce the amount of waste generated by the construction, restoration and destruction of buildings and manage water resources more effectively.
However good these smart cities may sound, there has been a lot of criticism surrounding them. One of the main critiques is that in low-income countries, smart cities are irrelevant to the majority of the urban population, which lives in poverty with limited access to basic services. A focus on smart cities may worsen inequality and marginalisation.
Humanity has come a long way since the very first cities began to emerge more than ten thousand years ago. The possibilities for what can be achieved are endless, and the smart city is one exciting area where things will really start to take shape.