Smart Cities: How Do I Know When My City Is Smart?

A report published at the start of July revealed “widespread ignorance of the UK’s efforts to smarten up its cities.” The clear focus of the report is on public awareness and perception of smart initiatives and the elusive Smart City itself. The authors go on to suggest that without the proper support, initiatives will “die on their feet”. I have just one problem with that. I simply don’t believe it.

In the vast majority of cases, Smart City initiatives are already underway in well established, densely populated existing cityscapes (brownfield reclamations like Aspern, Vienna excepted, admittedly). I’m talking about projects such as low-energy street lighting; automated parking space finder schemes; energy-efficient, climate controlled offices and apartments; single-sign-on access to local authority portals; etc.


Doesn’t sound familiar, you say? A little clunky? What about Smart Lighting; Smart Parking; Smart Buildings; Smart Government? Ah, yes…

So back to my point about not believing these initiatives will ever “die on their feet”. Individually, all these things can be called something far simpler: progress. The natural evolution of things. It’s how cities have worked since there were cities. The Romans invented Smart Sanitation when they perfected plumbing and gave people an alternative to throwing effluent out of their windows. Speaking of windows, there was a time when the Smart Window was the coolest thing on the block. You know, the one that filled in the previously open hole with a see-through material that kept the wind out. Genius, that one.

So if today’s Smart Initiatives are just a convenient name for things that were going to happen anyway, is it any surprise that citizens don’t really have a strong perception of efforts to “smarten up” their cities? I think not.

On the flipside though, is there anything that does actually deserve the title “Smart”? And come to think of it, what exactly is a Smart City?

Only one thing really makes a Smart City: integration. Without bringing together all the initiatives, a Smart City is nothing more than a way to sell a vision that justifies some grant funding. And that’s just not enough. But, when we add integration to the mix, we can start to deliver additional value from all those initiatives we’ve been talking about. Now, the benefit of all those individual projects will be greater than the sum of their parts. And that’s smart.

Let’s consider a few examples in just one area. We can call them Smart Energy for now. Smart Energy could mean a lot of things. It could mean integrating data about your home energy usage with your electric vehicle energy usage. There are lots of additional benefits to be had right there, for you; for the community; for the environment. New tariffs to suit your individual usage; incentives to use more energy from renewables; opportunities to use your electric vehicle’s spare capacity – either for your home or to sell back to the grid.

Next, we could integrate data about your wider energy footprint: when you take public transport; when you’re at work; when you’re at city events. This could lead to an overall ‘Energy Profile’ that could win you discounts; make you an attractive client for competitive suppliers and new offers; or lead to tailored, specific tips on how to do even better, saving more money and contributing more to your Smart City.

What if we then integrated energy data with Local Government data to better understand the energy efficiency of your home? You might be eligible for grants to improve insulation. The Local Government could better manage short-term aid and long-term construction plans.

Our broad Smart Energy concept could also mean integrating data from the energy profiles of people you care about. With their permission, you could monitor usage of elderly relatives or students taking their first tentative steps away from the nest, setting alerts for unusual activity or when a certain level of spend has been reached. Now, doesn’t that sound smart?

These examples all take advantage of a series of individual initiatives such as Smart Meters & the Smart Grid; Electric Vehicles; Geolocation Services; Smart Government and the like. A few of those have benefits in themselves. But when we get really smart – and when our cities will get smart – is when we integrate the data from each of those individual projects to provide a greater whole. Now that isSmart.

In my next blog, I’ll get just a little more technical and talk about some of the ways we can deliver integration through the Internet of Things (IoT) to make our Smart Cities a reality.

This blog first appeared on Forbes TeradataVoice on 29/07/2015

The post Smart Cities: How Do I Know When My City Is Smart? appeared first on International Blog.

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