Urenio Watch Watch: Intelligent Cities / Smart Cities

Humanizing Smart Cities

The citizens are the city, so for smart cities to be realized, the citizens should be placed at the center and become the focus of the outcome that the city is trying to achieve. Smart cities must be human-centered and humanized in order to win over the hearts and wallets of their citizens, and succeed in becoming truly smart.

Despite all the smart city hype, there is currently no such thing as a smart city, Chris Cooper argues. The term is still an industry-led exercise. Some cities are indeed gathering and using information in innovative and impressive ways, but this is not enough to make the cities themselves, as well as their citizens, smart. In fact, after more than a decade, smart city solutions do not seem to have captured the hearts or wallets of their citizens.

As explained above, smart cities can only become a reality if they place their citizens at the center of what they are trying to achieve. This will have a financial impact on the citizens and motivate them to embrace the smart city initiative, and, in addition, it will empower them to make informed decisions that lead to actions that is measurable and visible in terms of its impact. This will create engagement and incentives to use the information wisely, making the citizens smart and richer, which is the only way to create a smart city.

In order for humanized smart cities to be realized, Cooper explains, there are some important principles to be followed:

  • Smart cities need to be diverse, with projects meeting the principles, vision and needs of each place. A homogeneous and soulless “standard smart city’ is something contrary to smart city principles and should be avoided.
  • New tools and innovation being brought to market should put the citizen front and center. The smart solutions should provide something that citizens need and something that will clearly benefit them.
  • Since city authorities are often cash-constrained, it is difficult to secure funding for wide-scale city projects. Change will necessarily be gradual, street by street and then district by district. The first step should be a smart energy grid alongside local generation and storage. This way, domestic providers will have very cheap energy, a move which can subsidize internet connectivity and be the catalyst for local information marketplaces. Once these steps are taken, the ultimate goal is to really unlock the value of citizen empowerment and embrace community ownership.

The original article by Chris Cooper, IT architect and social scientist, can be found on TM Forum.