Three-quarters of people will live in cities by 2050.
It’s fashionable to attach the ‘smart’ tag to any technological trend today and this is particularly true of our cities. But, digging beyond the hype, what actually is a smart city and what progress are we as a society making towards that vision?
There is no doubt of the need for more intelligent urban infrastructure to cope with a growing urban population. Globally, three-quarters of people will live in cities by 2050 – 80 per cent of the UK population already does.
Check out this definition of a smart city from the analysts at IDC. They say it must“…involve a multifaceted transformation of services and infrastructure. Such initiatives must impact numerous areas, from the provision of transport, energy, and healthcare services, to the state of public safety and government services.”
Here are some real-world examples of the progress we are making towards true smart cities.
The EU has provided €6m funding for experimental facilities and applications in the northern Spanish city of Santander, aimed at testing typical applications and services of a smart city. The first phase of the three-year project finished last year and the city now has fibre networks and thousands of sensors on buildings, vehicles and the ground. These are used to reduce energy and water consumption and pollution.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Although in the early stages yet, Dubai announced plans last year to turn itself into a smart city. Underpinning this vision is the provision of high-speed wireless internet connectivity for citizens in all public locations. Smart sensors installed across the city will also provide real-time information and services on weather, traffic, entertainment, tourism, emergency services and flights.
Here in the UK, the government has announced over £150m of funding into smart city research and this runs alongside investment in intelligent transport systems, smart metering and telehealth. On the ground there are several cities embarking upon smart city projects and here are just two of them.
The Connecting Bristol digital partnership leads the city’s work on next generation broadband infrastructure, smart city, open data, green IT and digital inclusion, while Bristol City Council owns and manages a £9m city fibre network. And the Smart City Bristol programme, involving the public sector, businesses and the community, is building upon this digital infrastructure and aims to use smart technologies to reduce they city’s CO2 emissions by 40 per cent by 2020.
North of the border Glasgow won £24m funding through the Technology Strategy Board to develop a future cities demonstrator. It will be made up of a series of projects and programmes to promote healthy living, deliver advanced street lighting and enhance building energy efficiency. Glasgow aims to open up data to demonstrate how providing integrated health, transport, energy and public safety services can improve both the local economy and the quality of life for the city’s citizens.
Analyst IDC is also convinced that 2014 will be a big year for smart cities, saying cities will move quickly from research and evaluation to investment in pilots.
What are your thoughts on how we can develop intelligent infrastructure and the smart cities of the future?