How to Turn Your City into a ‘Smart City’

“Peace and Tranquility are the staple and cardinal sine qua nons for Sustainable Development.”

By Musharraf Shaheen.

Smart cities are the result of the increasingly urgent need to orient our lives towards sustainability. Thus, these cities use infrastructure, innovation and technology to reduce energy consumption and reduce CO2 emissions.

What are the measures towards sustainability?

Use of photovoltaic panels in the communities, more means of transport and electric vehicles, wind mills in street lamps, solar panels for traffic lights or signals, promotion and development of bicycle use … Smart Cities use a variety of resources, and all these small actions take to a city to become more efficient and sustainable.

Which cities are the smartest in the world?

There are different parameters by which one city is valued more than another. For this, 10 key dimensions are considered: Governance, urban planning, public management, technology, environment, international projection, social cohesion, mobility and transport, human capital and economy.

What is the ranking of the top 5?

1. Tokyo:

It is the city that best placed is in the ranking of 2013, with the first place in human capital and public management. However, social cohesion has been largely relegated mainly by the Fukushima earthquake and the subsequent tsunami.

2. London:

It maintains high levels in almost all dimensions, and stands out especially in international projection and technology. However, in public management and social cohesion it has relatively low values.

3. New York:

It is the most populated city of the United States and the second urban agglomeration of the continent after Mexico D. F. It is one of the most important cities in terms of human capital and economy of the world.

4. Zurich:

It is the main city of Switzerland, and is the financial engine and cultural center of the country. It stands out in the dimensions environment, and mobility and transport.

5. Paris:

It is the most popular tourist destination in the world, surpassing 40 million foreign tourists per year. It excels in international projection, technology, and mobility and transportation.

Taking into account that the perfect city does not exist, we must walk towards that perfection with all the means available. For example, Tokyo or New York, should improve their aspect of social cohesion. Information and communication technologies must be used to improve, while maintaining a commitment to the environment.

By 2050, according to the OECD, if drastic measures are not taken, economic and demographic growth will have an unprecedented environmental and social impact. Bearing in mind that the majority of the population will be concentrated in the big cities, it is essential to overcome the challenge of the more than 2 billion additional inhabitants by 2050.

How to turn your city into a ‘smart city’

Technology is an important element, but not enough. The environment and attention to the citizen become key elements in the configuration of the big cities of the future.

The majority of the world’s population now lives in cities, and by 2050, 70% of humanity will. The importance of these population centers is such that more than half of the objectives of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development of the UN go through to act within the cities. Thus, they are responsible for 70% of carbon dioxide emissions and generate 80% of global GDP, to cite two representative data.

Are European cities up to the changes demanded by the Industrial Revolution 4.0? The short answer is yes, but it is forced to transform so as not to lose the train of modernity. A recent study by Minsait (Indra), entitled The digital city at the service of the citizen in the 21st century, analyzes the challenges that cities face in the new global context and what steps they must take to become digital cities.

 The big difference between Europe and the rest of the world is that, in general terms, the urbanization process has been more gradual. Europe is far from the accelerated pace that exists in regions of the planet that are developing. For historical reasons, Europe has reached a territorial equilibrium with a stable degree of urbanization and lower than the one planned worldwide. The density, size and organization of European cities allow, for example, a more balanced organization of public transport than in the USA, where population density is lower, or more efficient management of municipal services.

The bulk of Europeans live in medium-sized cities (between 250,000 and 5 million inhabitants). Only four of the 79 cities on the planet with 5 or more million citizens are located in the Old Continent. Also, the distance between cities is smaller in Europe than in other continents, where the population gathers around large urban centers. This more uniform network of European populations allows for more fluid connections.

Of course, the most envied of Europe is its quality of life. 85% of the cities with the highest rate of prosperity are located in this continent, according to the UN Prosperity Index of Cities. But that does not have to remain the same forever: the aging of the population and the fit of immigration, the digitization of services and sustainable development, among others, are elements that will necessarily alter the appearance of cities.

The challenges that cities face in their journey towards digitalization and process optimization are as varied as they are and require a transversal approach in their treatment. The Minsait study classifies them into four groups: social, economic, environmental and urban. Having seen the existence of the numerous problems they face, the most experienced cities in this field are focused on finding solutions that provide them with greater productivity and efficiency.

Technology, for better or for worse, has helped turn the citizen into a mobile sensor that collects data as it moves around the city. The information explosion in which we are immersed seems to have no limits: in the last five years, internet devices of things have multiplied by 10 times; the volume of data generated, by 13; and the price of storage batteries have been reduced by one third.

The European project City4Age is an example of this way of approaching urban management through geolocalized data analytics. The initiative consists of collecting information on public transport cards, mobile phones and smart wristbands of people over 80 years of age to capture their activity and react if alterations in their habitual behavior are detected that may involve some risk.

Although smart cities have a close relationship technology, this is not exclusive. The prioritization of the needs of citizens and the concern for environmental issues are also presented as major challenges that these metropolises will have to deal with.