There was a time when bells in town squares warned citizens of impending danger. Today, the bells ring again in the form of studies and media reports with warnings about urban problems that plague modern cities and resist solutions. Meanwhile, increasing numbers of people move to cities in pursuit of a higher quality of life. This is the story of cities: Citizens with big expectations versus the endurance of big city problems. It is a still-unfolding story with numerous villains: social inequality, traffic congestion, pollution, crime, unemployment, lack of affordable housing, aging infrastructure, public service shortfalls.
In recent years, an increasing number of Spanish cities recognize the need for bold steps to confront an emerging urban crisis. A crisis with multiple dimensions including damage to quality of life caused by greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, threats of climate change, and an urgency to develop policies that support green city innovation.
Global Perspective: Good Intentions, Complex Barriers
Since the concept of a green economy was forged in the 1990s, the ideas and strategies for green cities have evolved into a variety of urban development policies, smart city solutions and sustainability measures to protect the environment, enable economic development and ensure high quality of life
What does it take to turn a national bureaucracy into a smart government? It’s not too often a country is given a clean slate from which to start. But for Estonia, a small nation on the Baltic Sea, that is exactly what happened.
A combination of pragmatism and instinct led Estonia to develop an e-government in the 1990s, soon after the country regained its independence from the Soviet Union. The Estonians didn’t pursue a digital future because they thought it would be cool or trendy. They followed their common sense, which told them it would be better to expend their limited resources on servers and networks, rather than on grand buildings and government palaces.
Law enforcement has been using technology to solve crimes for more than a century. Using technology to prevent crimes, however, is a relatively new idea. The movie Minority Report famously depicts a futuristic society in which police officers arrest people before they commit crimes. It’s a deeply disturbing movie with a not-too-subtle message about the danger of relying too heavily on technology.
Nevertheless, a small industry has emerged around the practice of predictive policing. New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, New Orleans and other cities have experimented with predictive policing programs. The experiments have been inconclusive and controversial.
What is a smart city and how is it different from our traditional notion of a city? There is no single definition for a smart city. The term itself is a moving target and every city is different.
That said, here are 10 ideas that can help us envision and define the smart city concept:
Smart City Expo World Congress (SCEWC), the leading international event for cities will host in 2018 its eighth edition under the theme Cities To Live In. From November 13 to 15, Fira de Barcelona's Gran Via venue will gather over 400 speakers and thinkers from fields that range from technology and smart governance to sharing economy and mobility. Among the top speakers for the 2018 edition are Rufus Pollock, economist and founder of Open Knowledge International; Andrew Keen, economist and author of How to fix the Future and The Cult of the Amateur; Víctor Pineda, social development scholar and disability rights advocate; and Bangladeshi social entrepreneur, banker and economist Muhammad Yunus, 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner.
The importance of smart cities & smart citizens: In our new interview series, smart city leaders comment on the future of smart cities, the role of technology, and the benefits for citizens. In our first interview of the series, we have asked Jonathan Reichental, CIO of Palo Alto, California to share his expertise, thoughts and insights with us on a number of important smart city topics.
As we discussed in our previous article (Blockchain: The Next Frontier of Smart Cities - Part 1), blockchain has the potential to transform our communities, making the places we call home more collaborative, democratic and sustainable places. It is no surprise then, that a whole bunch of cities - from Santiago de Chile, Toronto, Tel Aviv, Oslo, and Milan, to London, and Stockholm - are already developing blockchain-based projects. Dubai is going even further, aiming to become the world’s first fully ‘blockchain-powered city’ by 2020. Lofty ideals aside, as we examined in part 1, blockchain does actually seem to offer some concrete benefits for communities, as we shall see below.
Blockchain is a hot topic. Until very recently, it was associated almost exclusively with cryptocurrency - bitcoin, ethereum etc. However, the power of blockchain to revolutionize the way we exchange goods and services, and transform how we govern - above and beyond the cryptocurrency hype - is increasingly being recognized. When it comes to cities, the transformative potential of this technology is enormous. From enabling P2P energy-sharing systems, as in New York’s ‘Transactive Grid’, which allows local residents to generate, buy and sell their own solar energy, to encouraging behavioral change - for instance through SocialCoin’s blockchain and AI-based ‘social good’ currency (see e.g. the Citibeats solution) - and much more - blockchain is offering new opportunities to create more economically, environmentally and socially sustainable communities. As such, blockchain is likely to be an increasingly central enabler of smart city innovation worldwide. In this article, we will explore the potential benefits of blockchain in an urban context.
Nominations are currently open for the 2019 Intelligent Community Awards organized by our partner Intelligent Community Forum (ICF), based in New York City. There is no cost to submit a nomination. The deadline to nominate a community is September 21, 2018.
Communities qualifying for the Smart21, Top7 or Intelligent Community of the Year become part of a global working group of regions, cities and towns organized by ICF, a group that currently includes over 170 members. They also receive media coverage, investment inquiries and independent validation of their community’s progress as they strive to keep their best people “home.”
Innovating Urban Planning to Foster Community-Focused Development
More than half of the world’s population currently live in cities. The UN estimates that by 2050, this figure will have doubled. The “financialization” of housing, among other factors, has led to a situation where many of the world’s cities are now defined by a chronic shortage of housing for the least advantaged, and in many cases, for the working and middle classes as well. The local connection between the financial institutions funding housing development and the people buying them has long disappeared, replaced by a new international financial system where real estate is a major asset. Indeed, a recent UN report estimates that the total value of global real estate makes up 60 percent of all global assets, with a value of $217 trillion, three-quarters of which is housing. 
So how do we make housing more accessible in cities the world over? The ‘smart city’ movement presents cities with the opportunity to build and plan ‘smarter’, developing citizen-centered, tech-enabled living, working and playing spaces that respond to people’s changing desires and needs - that are ‘future-proof’ and ‘user-centric’. Whether in Sao Paulo, Brasil, or Todmorden, UK, smart city innovation, and the ideas and funds it brings, should be capitalized upon to drive forward and finance smart development projects that help to relieve the global housing crisis that we are facing. In this week’s article, we will focus on some of the ways we can innovate planning in order to ‘redistribute’ housing stock (both existing and future) to create more equitable, just and sustainable urban communities.
The term ‘smart city’ is everywhere at the moment, but it is still mostly discussed in reference to familiar names - Amsterdam, Barcelona, Toronto, Vienna - the usual suspects. This overlooks the innovative projects and smart city solutions being implemented in less well-known cities across the globe, and suggests that the world’s major capitals are the only leaders in this space. In this article we are therefore going to take a brief look at the world’s smart cities that we believe deserve more attention in 2018. Some are big, others are small, but, regardless of their size and location, they’re all making themselves ‘smarter’ for the benefit of their citizens: