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:
As John Friedmann highlights (2011), the household is just as much a socio-political space as the public realm: although it may be deemed ‘private’, the connections a household has to the outside world very often define its access to political empowerment, knowledge, jobs and, crucially, self-advancement. A home might be termed an ‘in-between’, or liminal, space: a place of family, domesticity and the everyday that is also the nucleus of its inhabitants’ connections to the outside world. As a zone which is supposedly hyperconnected (both internally and externally) the smart home should theoretically enhance its inhabitants’ connections to the wider community. As such, the smart home can be seen as a facilitator of community engagement, and in turn, civic involvement in smart city community initiatives.
If the smart city is one that is hyperconnected, energy and cost-efficient, and sustainable, aiming to improve the lives of all by leveraging existing resources and infrastructure, then the smart home should theoretically be a microcosm of this. Like many emerging concepts in the smart cities sector, including the very ‘smart city’ itself, most official definitions of the ‘smart home’ tend to center around new technologies:
Many proponents of the smart city claim that it is by nature inclusive. However, like all other aspects of urban design and development, smart city initiatives frequently fail to fully prioritize inclusivity, often perpetuating the very issues that they aim to solve. As Gil Peñalosa, world-renowned urban designer, noted in a recent panel discussion on ‘The Invisible Smart City’: “we currently design our cities as though everyone is 30 and active”, leading to biased, inaccessible urban design that excludes what he calls the ‘silent majority’. Going one step further than this, Yves Raibaud, acclaimed sociologist and urban geographer, argues that cities are designed ‘by and for men’ (par et pour les hommes) - notably ‘western’, privileged men. This evidently leaves much to be desired in terms of diversity, and in turn inclusivity. Children, older people, women, ethnic minorities, the disabled, the mentally and physically ill, and people with low household incomes (and those who meet at the intersecting points between these groups) are frequently excluded by and from urban design, unable to fully enjoy or participate in civic urban life or the processes that shape it.
Although the quantity of people using technology in their everyday lives is constantly rising, a relatively high percentage of the world’s population remains digitally disengaged or even technologically illiterate. In the European Union alone, nearly a third of people don’t use the internet on a daily basis; only half of all Europeans aged 16 - 74 use social networks or e-government services, and in some European countries up to 25% of people don’t have access to a computer from home.
As smart cities render our world more and more digital, and Information and Communications Technology (ICTs) play an increasingly important role in our daily lives, the ‘digital exclusion’ of certain population groups - notably those from low-income backgrounds, the elderly, and the disabled - is morphing into total societal exclusion.
Around the world, cities are growing. Already, roughly 180,000 people move into cities every day. By 2015, the UN estimates that there will be 22 metropolitan areas with populations of more than 10 million people. Growing urban populations mean more costs for cities - from increasing energy use, to overstrained public services - but they also provide a stimulus for innovation. After all, we can’t infinitely expand outwards and upwards. Instead, we need to find ways to be more ‘efficiently urban’: in other words, we need to be smarter with how we use our resources, time and capital.
"Nothing in the world is more simple and more cheap than making cities that provide better for people" - Jan Gehl, founding partner of Gehl Architects, in an interview in 2013.
When we talk about smart cities, the technological terms dominate. We refer to how big data, the Internet of Things, sensors, and automation, among other things, will change and innovate our cities, making life better for urban citizens. As Ignasi Capdevila and Matías I. Zarlenga highlight, however, in their study 'Smart City or smart citizens? The Barcelona case', when we think of smart cities from the perspective of new technologies alone, ‘citizens are often considered as users, testers, or consumers rather than producers and sources of creativity and innovation’.
In early February 2018, the Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) named the world’s Top7 Intelligent Communities of 2018. This is the think tank’s 16th annual Top7 list of regions, cities or towns that have gone, in ICF’s words, “from Smart City to Intelligent Community.” This year’s list includes communities from four nations, with Taiwan contributing three, Canada two communities and Australia and Finland one each. The seven will travel to London in June where one will go on to be named the Intelligent Community of the Year, succeeding Melbourne, Australia, the reigning community. The announcement will take place as the culminating event at the ICF Global Summit from 4-6 June at Siemens’ Crystal Facility and other sites around London.
We look at some of the emerging and advancing options for finding money to invest in smart city solutions.
Across the world, cities are acutely aware that they need to upgrade their infrastructure and systems to improve life for citizens and residents. This is becoming more urgent as rapid urbanization continues – by 2050, 66 percent of the world’s population will live in cities, up from 54 percent in 2014, according to the United Nations. This could add 2.5 billion people to the world’s city-dwelling population, placing additional strain on city services.
In a US survey from the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) almost 40 percent of respondents claimed they needed additional money “to sustain infrastructure at a baseline level” and indicated that the current state of their infrastructure is hurting quality of life.
On October 23, Huawei and Navigant Consulting have released the 2nd "UK Smart Cities Index - Assessment of Strategy and Execution of UK’s leading Smart Cities". The report features an assessment of 20 UK cities in their efforts of utilizing technology to address urban challenges and to seize development opportunities.
Bristol and London are the UK's smartest cities
Surprisingly, Bristol has been announced as leading smart city in the UK, followed by London. The two cities are spearheading the movement, well ahead of the other 18 cities that were analyzed in the report.
Over the past seven years, the smart city approach has changed fundamentally in terms of the strategies that cities and communities have chosen as a pathway for transformation. Driven by technology providers in the early years, governments as leaders of the smart city movement have later understood that technology is “only” the enabler for reaching governmental, economic and societal goals.
Today, smart city strategies still consider technology as an enabler, but governments have learned that top-down initiatives are not a prerequisite for success. Drivers for success are collaborative and participative human-centric approaches. If a city or community wants to become smarter, it should take the needs and problems of its customers – most of all their citizens – into account.
As expressed by a number of urban strategists in the past two years, we have witnessed a gradual shift towards citizen-centric smart city strategies. In an interesting article titled "Making cities smarter: How citizens' collective intelligence can guide better decision making" published by Deloitte University Press, the importance of citizen-centricity is presented clearly.
At bee smart city we completely agree with the authors and are convinced that collective intelligence is the key success factor for smart cities. Why? Because the acceptance and use of smart city solutions call for a user-centric approach that takes the needs and problems of citizens into account.
Over the past years, the smart city concept has reached a state of mainstream acknowledgment throughout the world. However, several important aspects are subject to constant debate:
- What is the best or a suitable definition?
- Does the concept apply to cities only or does it include rural or smaller communities?
- Is the concept technology- or human-centric?
- What are the key success factors?
- What are the strategic governance approaches?
- What can be derived from best practice?
In our review on becoming a smart city, we will cover all of these topics that relate to the smart city evolution from a practical perspective.
Over the past seven years, the smart city concept has changed fundamentally in terms of the approaches that cities or communities have chosen for urban transformation. Driven by technology providers in the early years, governments as leaders of the smart city movement have later understood that technology is “only” the enabler for reaching governmental, economic and societal goals. Today, smart city strategies still consider technology as an enabler, but governments have learned that top-down initiatives or a “master planned” approach are not the determinants of success. Drivers for success are collaborative and participative citizen-/human-centric approaches. If a city or community wants to become smarter, it should take the needs and problems of its customers – citizens, businesses, workforce/commuters, entrepreneurs, academia and non-profit organizations – into account.
Driven by urban strategists, scholars, companies and other institutions, we witness a constant debate on what a smart city is. There are so many existing definitions and synonyms such as "connected city", "resilient city", "senseable city", "intelligent community", "digital city", "digital community" or even "smart village". This debate poses the question on what exactly smart cities stand for.
Creating a unique identity and vision
While it is generally accepted that there are different generations of smart cities (as discussed in "TOWARDS A NEW PARADIGM OF THE SMART CITY"), we believe it is important for each city or community to create a unique identity of their smart city or smart community vision.