What Is A Smart City?

 

Smart cities have long been a somewhat nebulous concept, with many of us questioning at one point: What is a Smart City? The confusion no doubt comes from the varied definitions that are used to describe them, from one source to the next.

The one thing that can’t be questioned, however, is that the need for more intelligent and adaptable cities is on the rise. In a post-pandemic world, governments and city officials the world over are being forced to innovate on their policies in order to be more aligned with a growing conscientious public, and to make cities a more attractive place to live.

The Safe Cities Index 2021 found that whilst sustainability policies are common in most smart city authorities today, the growing challenge is delivering on public expectations which have grown tenfold since the pandemic hit.

Smart technology and urban sustainability are two of the biggest factors a smart city needs to adopt, but what else makes a smart city? And how important is the culture of a smart city?

 

What Is A Smart City? – Definition

Definitions of a smart city vary from place to place, but there is a clear golden thread that runs through the core of what makes a smart city.

Smart cities use information frameworks and technology to construct, implement and promote development strategies that address urban difficulties and challenges, building a long-term, connected and technologically enabled infrastructure.

Rather than a static outcome, smart cities should be seen as a process in which infrastructure, digital technologies and citizen engagement are deployed to make cities more resilient, sustainable and better able to respond to challenges.

The British Standards Institute (BSI) define smart cities as “ the effective integration of physical, digital and human systems in the built environment to deliver sustainable, prosperous and inclusive future for its citizens”.

At Pavegen we like to define smart cities in our own way from speaking to 100’s of smart city developers and governments: Smart cities are where technology and humans live together in harmony whilst providing an environment that is sustainable and promotes happiness for all those that spend time there.

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Health vs Wealth

It has been proven that people that live within our cities are wealthier than those who do not live in them, it has also been proven that the happiness of people who live in cities is lower than those who don’t. Imagine all those business people rushing around New York earning high salaries vs the people who live in the countryside and have a more relaxing, fulfilling life at a lower salary bracket. We believe this needs to change.

There is also some thought around the viewpoint of young people today. In the past 100 years, people have been all about the creation of wealth for ones enjoyment of life. Now, millennials put more emphasis on health, wellbeing and quality of life experiences vs just pure wealth creation activities.

 

The Technology Behind A Smart City

Smart cities use an interconnected network of software, communication networks and user interfaces to deliver connected solutions for challenges faced by the public. This network of technology works alongside the Internet of Things (IoT), a webwork of connected devices that communicate with one another and exchange data.

Companies like Siemens provide services that pull together all the many feeds from local buildings, public spaces and open environments. Their platform, Mindsphere allows city planners and operators to have a granular look at the cities performance on a minute by minute basis.

From motor-vehicles, appliances, street cameras and sensors, these IoT devices collect data and store it on cloud-based servers to be used for ongoing improvements, to both the public and private sectors. These analytics can help improve city-life and infrastructure both economically and sustainably.

For this reason, companies and establishments are being tasked to create solutions that not only improve smart city life, but also collect one of the most important assets to a city: data and metrics. Companies like Pavegen have reacted to this, by creating supplementary applications which work alongside their products to offer users metrics and analytics.

Research, like the recent analysis by the University of the Basque Country argues that there is an ever-growing desire for clear metrics surrounding urban sustainability from the public, with a clear demand for transparency.

This was one of the driving factors for Pavegen GO ENGAGE; created to help partners undertake meaningful social engagement, encourage behaviour changes towards sustainability and to measure impact. The platform brings together citizens, the power of a footstep and the reach of mobile technology, game theory and behavioural economics to create a more sustainable world.

 

The Culture Of A Smart City

The biggest challenge of building a smart city is allowing it to be something that the public can understand. Most of the technologies used in a smart city are hidden from the public and very few ideas engage the audience. A new way of thinking about smart cities is that they can be defined by the behavioural changes and sustainable approaches that brands, companies and the public adopt.

 

Brands, Companies & Establishments

Self-regulating business models and policies like Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) ensure that companies are socially accountable, not only for themselves, but for stakeholders and the public.

These practices allow companies to be conscious on the overall impact they have on all aspects of society and keeps them aligned with the sustainable approaches of their wider environment.

There is a growing need for companies and brands to demonstrate their effort towards more sustainable work processes and minimising environmental impact. Investment criteria, such as Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) policy set out standards that socially conscious investors can use to screen their potential investments, forcing the hand of companies to adopt more sustainable approaches.

 

The Wider Public

There are two main approaches for Smart City initiatives: top down and bottom up. The bottom up approach has seen the most success and is widely used across the globe to promote smart city life.

In essence, it is the use of new technologies and data to enable citizens to improve their connection with local officials and promoting engagement in civic life and sustainability efforts.

The demand for transparency from brands and companies has grown exponentially since the COVID-19 pandemic, with most of us thinking more actively about the fragility of our surrounding environment. This "new normal" is also likely to require cities to be greener and more sustainable places, as the pandemic has boosted our desire for greener spaces and social responsibility.

A smart city can only reach it’s fullest potential when incorporating its citizens into the solutions it has implemented. For this reason, technology and initiatives that drive public engagement are highly sought after. Smart tech like Pavegen, uniquely engages audiences through immersive experiences, opening up the conversation around greener living and sustainability.

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Conclusion

Whilst there are a wide array of definitions for What Is A Smart City? out there, there is a clear thread that runs through all of them. At their core, smart cities create connected systems for urban areas, providing solutions to the public and improving quality of life, all whilst ensuring sustainable efforts are met.

A smart city relies on a unified approach being adopted, from the government, private sectors and the general public to achieve its utmost potential. Making the community part of the conversation, will not only bring brands and establishments closer to the audiences, but open up the possibility of positive behavioural changes that extend far beyond the smart city itself.

Pavegen’s award-winning technology creates highly engaging experiences, by using the renewable energy of a footstep, to educate and engage communities and stakeholders alike.

Using 'people power', Pavegen helps move society towards a more sustainable future through highly engaging experiences that inspire people to think and act more conscientiously around our planet.

To discuss what Pavegen can do for you contact us today.