“Good morning you, wake up! Today is the 28th of January here in Adelaide! Grab your hat, as it will be 33 degrees and the humidity will be high. As it’s Friday, your budget allows you to purchase the tickets for that awesome theatre show you have been browsing for the last month. Uber rates at the show’s time will be half price. I can book dinner at your favourite Vietnamese restaurant close by. If you decide to drive, the Kart Car Park at 201 Grenfell Street is $8 flat after 5pm, but don’t party too hard, because they close at 1am. All together, this will save you $30 bucks tonight. Push yes if you want me to book it all for you”.
EXCITING OR SHOCKING?
WELL! We already have some of these facilities, but can you imagine having all of them (and more) as soon as your alarm rings?! As “Smart Cities” technology advances, this will become possible! Cities are surfing the “smartness” movement and enjoying the benefits. By leading the way to digital solutions, cities create a more liveable future for the population, not only in entertainment, but health, social communities and a lot more.
WHAT DOES IT TAKE FOR A CITY TO BECOME “SMART”?
In short, a city becomes Smart when it offers enough technology to connect with the community through regular use of specific applications. The secret behind` this phenomenon is the amount of data created by this interaction; allowing the public sector to make better decisions for the citizens, and visitors alike, and notify them in advance.
When creating digital solutions to become a smart city, three main layers of structure need to be in place.
- Technology base: cities install sensors and expand the connectivity to obtain enough data storage space to manage the information coming from the community
- Specific applications: city planners and technology developers build a strategy to provide the right resources for the community; guaranteeing their safety and privacy. Public and private sectors unite to create a network of digital solutions that integrate and expand their capabilities. For example, we recently built an app for SA Tourism Commission that provides local travel recommendations within South Australia – check it out here
- Measuring structure: data collection analysis and usage by public authorities
WHY ARE CITIES EMBRACING DIGITAL SOLUTIONS?
The easy and quick answer: to make purposeful decisions and reduce costs by increasing effectiveness in their communication with the public. Within the real-time interaction with citizens, city planners and public authorities can identify infrastructure and social bottlenecks, creating an increase in investment effectiveness and real-time solutions for citizens.
BENEFITS FROM SMART CITY TECHNOLOGIES
According to researchers and specialists, the benefits from digitalization, connectivity and real-time engagement with the population impact these areas:
By installing sensors and expanding connectivity, policing becomes a real- time thing – authorities could act in real-time, prevent accidents, reduce crime and increase safety.
Through real-time traffic monitoring, applications alert the population of alternative routes to commute – less time in traffic means more time for yourself! Plus, imagine how the health sector benefits from being able to assist people in danger at a faster pace, increasing the number of lives saved.
Expanding connection between patients and doctors with real-time health tracking. For a diabetic person, being able to have her blood measured 24/7 while still having the assistance of doctors (in case something happens), can be a game changer. Researchers point out that by identifying demographic data, authorities can understand the age-group for specific diseases, measure the number of deaths and monitor chronic cases. All these data, optimise the action time on mitigating risks and increases the number of lives saved.
Building automation systems, electricity tracking and mobility applications can cut emissions by 10 to 15%. Water consumption tracking and pipe leakage sensors can cut waste by 25%. There are a lot of benefits in terms of solid waste management, soil contamination, air-pollution and so on. Have a look at these stats. In my opinion this is the area that can gain the most.
A two-way communication, that is digital and simple, reduces the distance between the community and authorities. It becomes a vehicle of exposure where people raise their concerns and propose solutions. Transparency can really take place with technology.
CONCERNS ABOUT SMART CITY TECHNOLOGIES
Cost of infrastructure
Big cities already struggle enough with this – developers and planners must take delays, bugs and bureaucracy into consideration.
Security and hackers
Significant investment in security, protecting the system from hackers and cyber-crimes must be priority number one.
That feeling of being watched 24/7, the insecurities about how the data will be used and where the boundaries are between monitoring interaction to develop future quality life, and invasion of privacy. Authorities must educate and be transparent throughout this process to gain people’s trust.
Social inclusiveness and full engagement
What happens to the social groups who have no integration or interest in using the systems? How can they be educated on the application’s usability and benefits? Without “smart” citizens there are no “smart” cities.
WHAT WE SHOULD DO
Personally, I think we need to grow awareness about this topic in the first place. Let’s be honest here, had you ever heard about this concept before reading this blog? And yet, we already face a lack of transparency around it. I believe we need to spread the word! I’ve started by writing this blog, but you can share it and start having conversations about it. I believe the best way to fight the concerns about “Smart Cities” is by getting involved and reflecting on the pros and cons of this transformational process.
Secondly, how much does it cost for the population, in terms of taxes, privacy, inclusiveness? And what are the losses that this system would create in the community?On one hand we face a perfect integrating system that simplifies our lives and facilitates our decision making day-by-day. On the other hand we could jump from the data-driven society we’re in now (we are all aware of tracking etc but feel that we have at least some decision freedom), to a society where we hand over 100% control; the way we live would be dictated by the government… because they’ve got data power over us!
As we know, once technology is in place it is really hard to reverse its effects. So, in my opinion if you are in Adelaide, be aware that you are living in a city that has a “Smart City” plan in its full execution. Let’s start engaging in some research to understand how we, as citizens, feel about this digital transformation. Recognising this and having critical thinking will shape the way we, and coming generations, live – we have a major role to play right now! Are we ready to own this responsibility and start acting?!