What makes a city smart? Innovative technologies alone aren’t enough. To be truly smart a city must use technology to improve the lives of its citizens. Today, the 100 largest cities in the world produce 25% of the planet’s wealth. More and more cities are looking to turn smart and improve their citizens’ quality of life.
This article highlights some examples of cities which are embracing smart technologies and show how they are having a positive impact on daily life.
From street lights to parking, there are countless ways for a city to become smart. But smart cities aren’t all about infrastructure. They’re about putting people first. While new technology often makes the headlines, if it doesn’t improve people’s lives then what’s the point? That’s why Smart Cities strive to improve the well-being of everyone in a community by harnessing new technologies.
Transport is an area where smart technology is already having a big impact. As urban populations grow, governments are using smart city thinking to encourage more people to use public transport. Dubai has one of the highest levels of car usage globally and has turned to smart mobility to solve the problem. In 2016 it launched an ambitious integrated mobility strategy, uniting all available transport modes – both public and private – on a single platform. Accessible through a smartphone app, it enables users to book a trip using multiple modes of transport at the touch of a button. There is also potential for the platform to integrate services such as Uber, providing a truly comprehensive experience for users. It is expected to be launched in early 2017 and is part of Dubai’s vision to become ‘the world’s happiest and smartest city by 2017’.
As well as making life easier for people, smart technologies are bringing valuable environmental benefits to cities. In Amsterdam, residents are using low-cost sensors to measure the effect of their lifestyle on the environment. One designer, Joris Lam, has created a sensor to monitor local air pollution that looks like a birdhouse. This provides free Wi-Fi when citizens improve the air quality in their street. Dubbed ‘Tree Wi-Fi’, the goal of the project was to raise public awareness about human impact on the environment. Lam said “I set out to find a simple way to make air pollution visible to citizens in a way that people just understand on an emotional level, rather than having to dig through data and maps.” It’s just one example of how out-of-the-box thinking and clever use of technology helps protect cities for future generations.
In nearby Nijmegen a similar project is underway. The Smart Emission Network will give citizens access to real-time environmental information through sensors installed across the city. This gives individuals, businesses and the government a valuable starting point for combating noise and air pollution.
And more than just focussing on citizens, Smart Cities Council also wants to raise awareness about how technology can benefits the lives of vulnerable and disadvantaged members of society. Smart technologies can be powerful forces for good – but there’s also a risk that less affluent citizens will be left behind. Compassionate Cities addresses the digital divide head-on to make sure that smart cities benefit everyone. The Council recently highlighted a number of schemes taking place across the globe that use technology to reduce youth employment. For example, in Kenya a digital jobs initiative has established a thriving gig economy. The programme has already helped 40,000 Kenyans to get work online and the goal is to boost that number to one million.
To read more about how Smart Cities are revolutionising urban spaces across Europe to benefit the citizens, the workers and the people who have hopes and dreams for the kind of city they will leave for future generations, visit the Smart People section of the Readiness Guide.