Smart cities: a shift in technology or culture?

Published:  January 19, 2016
Jamuna Raj

Urban planning and infrastructure design is no longer just about creating better living and working spaces. It is now about using digital technologies or information and communication technologies to enhance the quality of urban services, reduce costs and consumption, and engage with residents.

It is now the era of smart cities.

Smart city projects have mushroomed in the US and Europe in recent years to solve common urban problems.

In Amsterdam, for example, the national and local governments came up with TrafficLink SCM, which is a smart traffic system of vehicle detection stations that helps road managers to improve traffic flows in the area. Chicago, another fine example, uses new infrastructure for open data, sensors and cameras to improve city services like street lighting, garbage collection and even rodent detection.

Technology may be the key factor of smart cities, but there are other factors that drive smart cities that cannot be ignored. Projects like those in Amsterdam, Chicago and even Seoul (where an open data source has been created to allow for access to city data to help businesses grow) are made possible through private and public collaborations – between governments, research bodies, companies and the general public.

With the above in mind, how can cities in Australia come up in the ranks of smart cities and meet the growing infrastructure demands? What are the technologies needed to do so? And, more importantly, is there more to adopting the ‘smart city’ concept?

Fielding these questions and more, founder of Giant Ideas Catherine Caruana-McManus, Deloitte Digital’s digital advisor and software engineer Hadi Michael, consulting practice director of Smart Connected Communities for Cisco Australia Harley Young and Tesla’s Heath Walker will all be at Pause Fest 2016 to further discuss the future of cities and urban planning.

Hadi Michael, digital adviser and software engineer at Deloitte Digital

Smart cities_1“Smart cities are the blend of shifts in both digital technology and culture. Advances in ambient computing are empowering makers and citizen scientists to tackle local community problems in unprecedented ways. While a shift in how our society thinks about open data and knowledge sharing, is creating a culture that favours community collaboration. The ultimate goal for a smart city (or any city) is to deliver tangible benefits, which enhance the quality of life for its citizens. We can do this by fostering a culture that empowers citizens to embrace technology, as an enabler to solving local challenges in a real-time and decentralised way.”

Harley Young, consulting practice director of Smart Connected Communities for Cisco Australia, digital strategist, architect, and builder of teams and products

smart_cities 2“I think it’s about and, not or. Culture and tech intermingle, and inform the way we interact with institutions and each other. For example, the explosion of mobile applications and services has made smartphones seductive enough that 90 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds now sleep with one. The ecosystem of sensors and data orbiting mobile has enabled adjacent possibilities for cities and corporations that improve asset management (e.g. parking) and service delivery (e.g. transportation). Along with fantastic opportunity, however, technology creates new challenges, especially for vulnerable populations. If we don’t address that, a city amy end up with ‘smart’ tech, but without much of a community culture.”

This article first appeared in the desktop-Pause special.
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