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.