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Building and Planning the Citizen-Centric Smart City - Part 1

By Lily Maxwell on Jun 29, 2018 1:39:22 AM

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.[1] [2]

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.

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How to ensure that your smart city strategy is inclusive

By Lily Maxwell on May 15, 2018 3:54:12 PM

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.

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How smart cities save governments, businesses and citizens money

By Lily Maxwell on Apr 18, 2018 3:21:12 AM

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.

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Why should a municipality become a smart city? The six key benefits of transforming the place we call home.

By Lily Maxwell on Apr 2, 2018 12:41:44 PM

By 2050, it is estimated that roughly 70% of the world’s population will live in cities. With more citizens to serve, and a climate that is rapidly degrading, public service efficiency and effective resource-usage are becoming pressing issues for cities. Big tech companies talk a lot about how the solutions to these issues can be found through their innovative new technologies; however, while technical tools are indeed necessary, cities should ensure that their smart city strategy is holistic, multifaceted and, most importantly, citizen-centric  [1], if they want their efforts to bring fruitful results. A contextually adapted and citizen-centric approach  [2], using both human and technological resources, can bring multiple benefits for municipalities, particularly those that are struggling with specific problems - such as inefficient waste management systems, lack of civic participation, or traffic and congestion.
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The importance of the “smartivist” - how smart citizens accelerate smart city development

By Lily Maxwell on Mar 11, 2018 11:23:18 PM

"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’. 

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Paying for Smart Cities: Where’s the Money?

By Sarah Wray on Jan 14, 2018 2:09:01 PM

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[1]. 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)[2] 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.

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Call for a Human-Centric Smart City Approach

By Thomas Mueller on Aug 31, 2017 4:59:51 PM

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.

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Collective Intelligence: Key Success Factor for the Smart City

By Dr. Alexander Gelsin on Aug 31, 2017 4:51:26 PM

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.

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Smart City Evolution: A Review of Becoming a Smart City

By Bart Gorynski on Aug 31, 2017 4:12:36 PM

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.

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Towards a New Paradigm of the Smart City

By Thomas Mueller on Aug 31, 2017 3:33:12 PM


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.

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