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.
"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’.
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.