I bet you’ve probably heard from “Smart Cities” already. But what are they all about? I hear you thinking: futuristic skyscrapers and ultramodern mobility systems! Yes… and no.
Lately, a lot of cities in the world are putting smart city solutions on their program. Why? Because cities are growing faster than before. Money, other people, modernisation, easy access to education, healthcare & entertainment make more and more people move to the cities. The United Nations predicts that by 2050, 70 % of the world population will live in cities! This fast urbanisation together with challenges like climate change, limited natural resources, economic restructuring, ageing populations, … make the need for sustainable and liveable solutions in cities very high. I watched a TEDx talk by Larissa Suzuki who explained that, to service the population in 40 years with our current city systems, we would need 3 earths… Not gonna happen!
So what makes a solution in a city smart? IMEC, who is leading the City of Things project in Antwerp, explains that it should be solutions that contribute to the whole urban ecosystem: bring advantages to the citizens, the urban economy and for initiatives of the government and organizations.
A big resource for such solutions is found in today’s advanced technology: Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, Mobile solutions etc. For example: urban lightening based on solar power that is only activated when it detects something moving, sensors in waste bins for garbage trucks to waste less energy driving around, smart parking apps based on real-time traffic sensors, … However, front and centre of urban architects’ and technologies’ focus should be the users of the city i.e. the citizens and their particular needs & behaviours. The smart city must be liveable, not big brother watching (“The Brasilia Syndrome” – Jan Gehl).
The trick is to connect people, systems and technology in a feasible manner while designing smart city solutions. Collaborative problem solving, including citizen participation is key. This allows you to take their needs, expectations and behaviours into account which is crucial for a liveable city. Moreover, your citizens will naturally become more engaged in using smart solutions when you involve them from the start.
Conclusion: no matter how smart your technology and infrastructure in your city is, if you do not involve its citizens, your city has gone stupid.
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By Jenthe van Gastel