There were an estimated 47 megacities in existence in 2017, and the majority were located in Asia. The region is facing urbanization on a scale far beyond that of other regions, with an estimated 1.1 billion moving into Asian cities in the next 20 years. Many Asian countries are also in areas that are prone to extreme weather patterns or natural disasters, and this is only becoming more of a problem with climate change. Cities across the continent urgently need to prepare for serious population growth, and the strain it will place on their public services, and the risks that environmental changes pose. For this reason, becoming more resilient and ‘smarter’ is inevitably at the top of most Asian cities’ political agendas. In this article we are going to explore some of the Asian cities investing in becoming smarter and more sustainable in order to make their citizens safer and happier.
"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’.
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.