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smart cities.

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"Cities are deeply complex, built up in a vast array of activities that have accumulated over time. In Smart Cities, this array of actions produces big data which can be translated to strategic insights into city infrastructure and the complexity of city systems."

Since the industrial revolution, cities have been the drivers for global economic growth. Generating about 80% of global GDP, cities are the remarkable product of agglomeration economies and scaling laws which mean that as cities grow larger, their citizens consume less, and produce more, per capita. The current unprecedented acceleration in urbanization, combined with exponential adoption of digital technology, has produced the phenomenon known as Smart Cities.

In the next decade, the ubiquity of the Internet of Things and Smart Cities will be hailed as the answer to the questions, what must happen to make a good city? Or a great one? In response, city leadership can create another “step change”, of the scale of the current technological revolution, by addressing the following three critical areas.


Achieving Smart Growth

Growth is vital for all cities to continue to develop a favourable economic position and to be competitive on a global scale. Attracting talent for the city has become a priority for local leadership in an effort to sustainably grow the city to the point of real competitiveness. But what makes a city attractive to potential talent?


Doing more with less

City officials will continue to deal with the perpetuity of budgetary pressures. As ex-mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani once wrote ‘There may not be a single city anywhere that believes it has, or will ever have, enough money to accomplish all it needs to do, let alone what it wants to do’.

High performing cities assess and manage expenses with precision, and the proposition of private-public partnerships has paved the way for councils to relinquish control of some areas of government to be delivered by private entities at a higher quality, for lower costs. How can city leaders access alternative procurement models for their city context?


Winning Support for Change

City leaders must have a vision for their city, and persistently and resiliently fight for that vision. The era of short-term leadership has meant that long-term investment is seen as costly with unproven benefits to the community. This is perpetuated by the instant gratification generation driven by optimised speed, unlimited access and unprecedented levels of freedom. Leaders must demonstrate the skill of foresight to lead a city into a new era, sometimes at the cost of popularity. Doing this will  require that civil servants be accountable for their work, and their decisions – but are also celebrated  in their successes. Strategic goals that provide longevity will, in the end, lead to greater positive outcomes for the city. What research and modelling can be accessed to validate the goals of the city?

Big data analytics and computer learning modelling are providing civic leadership with a rich nexus of possibilities to inform how they invest in service provision to citizens and urban entities in their activities. There is much enthusiasm about the immense range of opportunities provided by new and more extensive sources of urban data to better operate, manage, plan, and develop cities to improve their contribution to the goals of sustainable development.

Cities as complex systems, with their domains becoming more and more interconnected and their processes highly dynamic, rely more and more on sophisticated technologies in order to respond to the challenges faced in addressing rapid urbanisation in a sustainable manner.

In other words, the technology that allows for intelligence and automation in nearly all urban domains is ushering in a new era for city lifestyle, and targeted approaches for urban leaders.

There are potential benefits to be gained in almost all areas of society including, but not limited to: 

  • Energy efficiency

  • Carbon footprint monitoring and reduction

  • Energy production, distribution and demand management

  • Industrial production process efficiency

  • Environmental monitoring and protection

  • Transport system efficiency and management

  • Water and waste management 

  • Water supply and distribution

  • Power grid management

  • Low-carbon and virtual mobility 

  • Noise and pollution reduction

  • Zero-emission and low-carbon buidlings

  • Traffic management and street light control

  • Learningand edicaytion

  • Urban design and lande use 

  • Ecosystem service provision

  • Healthcare and social services 

  • Urban planning and management 

  • Governance and citizen participation

According to the McKinsey Global Infrastructure Initiative, the term Smart City “refers to the use of innovative technologies in complex urban environments to manage resources and infrastructures in a sustainable way and create opportunities for growth.” The age of the Internet of Things (IoT) is bringing to the fore a realm of new possibilities on a scale that has not been witnessed since the development of electricity. The impact on cities on a global scale through integration of these solutions has potential to transform the way humans live, work and play. However, Smart City is a nebulous term that is used as a cover-all term for anything that is operational or connected via IoT. Six characteristics facilitate analysis of anything determined to be ‘smart’.

However, it is not a one-size-fits-all model. Each city is nuanced in a considerable number of ways, including but certainly not limited to their: capabilities, social construct, cultural diversity, finances, geographic locale, and technology-focus within its leadership team. Any city requires a bespoke model to suit the individual needs of the specific urban environment. Greatness is about individual trajectory, not emulating the path of another.

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