Smart City has become an increasingly popular term in recent years, but what exactly are Smart Cities and which city is the smartest of them all?
A Smart City is an ever more prevalent urban development strategy that uses new technological advances to tackle it’s problems, often by collecting massive amounts of data gathered from the daily actions of its inhabitants in order to find the most efficient way to run certain systems in future.
Due to major economic and environmental changes, the continued acceleration of technological progress has led to new ways to tackle the problems of climate change, urban overcrowding, and ageing populations which are placing increased strain on many major cities ageing infrastructure.
Research author Steffen Sorrell said: “When addressed effectively, the impacts are substantial: higher economic productivity, potential for new revenue streams and services as well as a measurable benefit in reduced healthcare costs”.
A report from Juniper research looked at many cities from around the globe and evaluated them across 40 metrics to determine that these are the five smartest ‘Smart Cities’ in the world today.
Which island city-state off southern Malaysia came top of the list?
Singapore, one the worlds financial centres, and arguably the smartest Smart City right now.
The sovereign city state, is currently leading the world with it’s integration of smart technology and has the lofty aim of becoming the worlds first Smart Nation.
Almost every aspect of the city is monitored through sensors provided by private companies to absorb astonishing amounts of data. This data is monitored by a program known as Virtual Singapore that enables authorities to find the most effective ways in which to manage the city.
These systems range from the more typical smart city initiatives such parking monitors, efficient lighting, and waste disposal, to innovative new systems such as sensors deployed voluntarily in elderly care facilities that will alert families if their relatives stop moving for too long. ‘Tele-Health’ is another innovative system which allows patients to see their doctor via a screen without ever having to leave the house.
However, much of this data is personal data, and one of the biggest concerns regarding Smart City tech is the issue of privacy. How much should we be expected to give and what will the government do with it?
In recent years Singapore has become more committed to transparency and recognises the concerns of data mining on such a large scale. Vivian Balakrishnan, Singapore’s foreign affairs minister said: “The big, big elephant in the room is protection of privacy and ensuring security,”
The government has noted this and is committed to releasing more data by making the process easier for citizens, helping the city get ever closer to achieving the worlds Smartest Smart City accolade.
Which Spanich city has one of the cleanest transport systems in the world?
In recent years Barcelona has been dealing with the problems of an ageing population and a local recession of its own, yet the government of the Catalonia capital have consistently found new ways to boost the infrastructure of the city and create new jobs.
Much like the other cities on this list, Barcelona employs smart parking and traffic systems to monitor congestion, but the city is also incredibly energy efficient.
Barcelona enjoys a much higher level of sunshine than a lot of other developed cities and takes full advantage of that. In 2000 the Barcelona Solar Thermal Ordinance required all large buildings to produce their own hot water and in 2006 it became a requirement to use solar water heaters.
It also boasts one of the cleanest public transport systems in the world with it’s fleet of hybrid buses, as well as it’s smart cycling initiative ‘Bicing’ which gives access to over 400 bike stations through a yearly subscription or via phone payments. The city has made it’s waste management system simpler by deploying pneumatic tubes under city waste bins that eliminate the need for large disposal trucks.
A number of apps can also be used to assist with day to day living; the Transit app uses live traffic cams to help navigate along the cleareast route and Bustia Ciutadana acts as a customer service line for the city with which citizens can file complaints on things like potholes and broken lights. All of this data is then sent to a central location to help the city in future.
With regards to privacy and transparency of data, Barcelona officials say they are committed to making the city as transparent and democratic as possible. The Open Data BCN service is a huge wealth of information that is completely open to the public and acts to serve as something citizens and business alike can use to track the economy or locate gaps in services.
Barcelona, continues to expand these systems and plans to introduce more with the use of Barcelona Urban Lab which allows companies to pilot new smart tech for the continued betterment of this truly smart city.
Renewable energy efforts let down the next city on the list
As London continues to grow and age, the problems with it’s infrastructure are abundantly clear – huge congestion, an antiquated metro system and a huge emissions problem. Smart tech is helping to curtail these issues move the city in a more productive direction.
London’s population is estimated to grow by another 1 million people over the next ten years and is expected to pass the 10 million mark by 2030. If these problems remain unaddressed then it will cause staggering difficulties for it’s inhabitants. Luckily, smart initiatives such as trialling electric bike sharing systems, and 300+ smart parking spaces to monitor parking are starting to have a positive effect.
The Juniper report on smart cities made sure to note that London would have placed higher in the standings had it not been for significant failings regarding it’s renewable energy sources and poor power reductions.
Global Smart City tech investment is estimated to reach $1,135 billion by 2019 according to a Market and Markets report. London currently has plans to be a part of this by investing in schemes that allow the River Thames to become a renewable energy source by using it to heat homes reducing the need for boilers, providing better air quality and reduced power bills for residents.
The city also intends to begin installing solar panels on houses in an effort to provide an increase in green energy. The power grid will then be managed digitally in order to maximise it’s efficiency, bringing carbon emissions and utility costs down city-wide.
These new initiatives and others like them should help keep London as one of the smartest smart cities for some time.
Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair in the next city on the list
4. San Francisco
San Francisco, as one of the tech capitals of the world, is a natural fit for a list on the worlds smartest cities.
The 7×7 mile city is home to over 800,000 people and as a result suffers from heavy congestion, with the many hills for which the city is famed for only compounding the problem further. Mayor Ed Lee is confident that the introduction of smart technology is one of the city’s best bets for solving the problems.
Although the city by the bay’s transport system is fairly antiquated it’s availability has been revolutionised by smart payment methods for fares, which allow passengers to pay for their commutes via their smart phones or contactlessly, streamlining the process.
Smart Parking has also helped to alleviate the problem, whilst the public transport system fares quite well, there is still a very high percentage of private vehicle ownership which the city sees as a priority to reduce. Smart Parking in San Francisco allows authorities to adjust the prices on parking in certain areas based on the number of available spaces over a length of time to control flow and congestion.
San Francisco is also leading the way in many clean energy initiatives; the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) has praised the city, saying that it has one of the highest concentrations of LEED certified buildings in the world. A recent law also states that all new buildings are required to have at least 15% of roof space dedicated to solar panels, a policy which California lawmaker, Senator Scott Wiener, wishes to become a state wide policy.
The techboom of the bay area has contributed immensely to it’s problems and solutions but the city, known for it’s progressive ideals, is dedicated to tackling these problems with smart technology.
Which Scandinavian city is dedicated to cleaner living?
Oslo, like many Scandinavian cities, is committed to progressive and cleaner living but the Norwegian capital’s dedication to smart energy plans has led to it being hailed as one of the most sustainable smart cities today, firmly earning it’s place on this list.
The city currently uses 65,000 smart LED lights linked by 650 processing stations. These not only reduce energy use but can actually monitor the area to determine how bright they need to be, in foggy or lighter conditions they are able to become bright or more dim respectively.
License plate detectors were also introduced in a scheme to calculate accurate congestion charges as part of it’s smart traffic system and the city is currently embarking on construction of an additional 37 miles of cycling road with plans to ban cars in the city centre all together by 2019.
In terms of energy created, the city uses waste as one of it’s primary fuels as opposed to burying it in a landfill, both industrial and standard waste have been harnessed to this end. Interestingly enough, because the city uses so much of this waste as fuel they depleted their entire stockpile in 2013 and authorities had to import refuse from abroad.
In the future, Oslo has plans to redraw it’s entire transport network by 2020 and is aiming to cut fuel emissions by 50%, and by 2030 hopes to 95% climate neutral.