As big cities start to show their age new technology can help revitalise them. Here’s a look at some of the ways smart cities are changing the world.
Smart City has become an increasingly popular term in recent years, but what exactly are Smart Cities and which city is the smartest of them all?
A Smart City is an ever more prevalent urban development strategy that uses new technological advances to tackle it’s problems, often by collecting massive amounts of data gathered from the daily actions of its inhabitants in order to find the most efficient way to run certain systems in future.
Due to major economic and environmental changes, the continued acceleration of technological progress has led to new ways to tackle the problems of climate change, urban overcrowding, and ageing populations which are placing increased strain on many major cities ageing infrastructure.
Research author Steffen Sorrell said: “When addressed effectively, the impacts are substantial: higher economic productivity, potential for new revenue streams and services as well as a measurable benefit in reduced healthcare costs”.
A report from Juniper research looked at many cities from around the globe and evaluated them across 40 metrics to determine that these are the five smartest ‘Smart Cities’ in the world today.
Singapore, one the worlds financial centres, and arguably the smartest Smart City right now.
The sovereign city state, is currently leading the world with it’s integration of smart technology and has the lofty aim of becoming the worlds first Smart Nation.
Almost every aspect of the city is monitored through sensors provided by private companies to absorb astonishing amounts of data. This data is monitored by a program known as Virtual Singapore that enables authorities to find the most effective ways in which to manage the city.
These systems range from the more typical smart city initiatives such parking monitors, efficient lighting, and waste disposal, to innovative new systems such as sensors deployed voluntarily in elderly care facilities that will alert families if their relatives stop moving for too long. ‘Tele-Health’ is another innovative system which allows patients to see their doctor via a screen without ever having to leave the house.
However, much of this data is personal data, and one of the biggest concerns regarding Smart City tech is the issue of privacy. How much should we be expected to give and what will the government do with it?
In recent years Singapore has become more committed to transparency and recognises the concerns of data mining on such a large scale. Vivian Balakrishnan, Singapore’s foreign affairs minister said: “The big, big elephant in the room is protection of privacy and ensuring security,”
The government has noted this and is committed to releasing more data by making the process easier for citizens, helping the city get ever closer to achieving the worlds Smartest Smart City accolade.
In recent years Barcelona has been dealing with the problems of an ageing population and a local recession of its own, yet the government of the Catalonia capital have consistently found new ways to boost the infrastructure of the city and create new jobs.
Much like the other cities on this list, Barcelona employs smart parking and traffic systems to monitor congestion, but the city is also incredibly energy efficient.
Barcelona enjoys a much higher level of sunshine than a lot of other developed cities and takes full advantage of that. In 2000 the Barcelona Solar Thermal Ordinance required all large buildings to produce their own hot water and in 2006 it became a requirement to use solar water heaters.
It also boasts one of the cleanest public transport systems in the world with it’s fleet of hybrid buses, as well as it’s smart cycling initiative ‘Bicing’ which gives access to over 400 bike stations through a yearly subscription or via phone payments. The city has made it’s waste management system simpler by deploying pneumatic tubes under city waste bins that eliminate the need for large disposal trucks.
A number of apps can also be used to assist with day to day living; the Transit app uses live traffic cams to help navigate along the cleareast route and Bustia Ciutadana acts as a customer service line for the city with which citizens can file complaints on things like potholes and broken lights. All of this data is then sent to a central location to help the city in future.
With regards to privacy and transparency of data, Barcelona officials say they are committed to making the city as transparent and democratic as possible. The Open Data BCN service is a huge wealth of information that is completely open to the public and acts to serve as something citizens and business alike can use to track the economy or locate gaps in services.
Barcelona, continues to expand these systems and plans to introduce more with the use of Barcelona Urban Lab which allows companies to pilot new smart tech for the continued betterment of this truly smart city.