Old Concept Revisited

The last century has witnessed astronomical improvements in the way we have seamless access to services. Nevertheless, with the current heavy industrialization and an increasing growth in urban population, there has emerged a big challenge among architects, administrators and urban planners. In an effort to address a plethora of challenges in urban cities, a development vision has been developed to integrate information technology with the Internet of Things (IoT) in order to securely manage assets in urban cities. Today, key assets such as transportation systems, power plants, communication tunnels, libraries, hospitals, water supply and waste management systems can be managed with IoT enabled technologies in smart cities. A smart city refers to an ultramodern geographical area that satisfies the needs of institutions, businesses and citizens.

“Smart city” concept might seem to be a common trend that has been born out of contemporary urbanism. However, cities used technology in gathering, interpreting, and visualizing civic data as early as 1960s. Dating back to 1974, Los Angeles employed computer databases, infrared aerial photography and cluster analysis in making critical decisions in formulating policies. Following up the trend, Los Angeles’ Mayor Eric Garcetti in December 2013 issued an order to every department to gather all collected data and share it on the public domain. The year that followed saw the introduction of DataLA, an online portal that targeted a generation with smart phones and connected to the Internet.

Today, the concept is widely known as “smart city,” and has also been named “digital cities” or “intelligent cities.” Regardless of the name given to such an approach, the ultimate objective of this concept remains: to enhance a better use of IT and IoT technologies in effectively managing cities, connecting urban residents to government resources and spurring employment in tech industry. Governments around the world are increasingly adopting the idea of smart cities, with the main objective to enhance an inclusive and sustainable development. The core infrastructural elements or smart solutions to the challenges that Smart Cities would provide include, but not limited to: adequate supply of water, assured access to electricity, sanitation, urban transport and mobility, affordable housing, digitalization and IT connectivity, e-governance, sustainable environment, security of the citizens and education and health.

Population in urban areas is booming and this growth in the number of people in cities poses challenges that need to be thought through in order to merge population growth, social progress and economic development. While a large share of GDP is generated by cities, not all aspects present in such agglomerations can be said to be positive. There are serious inequalities and if these negative elements in cities can be managed, the positive attributes can surpass the negative ones. The model of smart cities can facilitate efficient city management and planning and thereby leading to urban growth.

Cities face a serious challenge in governance models in terms of flexibility. Governments need to allow the combination of bottom-up policies initiatives with top-down policies with the changes in territorial cohesion and demographic changes. There are also challenges in economy where urban areas need to focus of multisectoral economy to make them more robust to economic crises. Mobility systems need to be efficient, inclusive and sustainable. In this manner, cities need to implement multimodal transport and mobility systems and device alternatives to the car-based transport systems to make public transport available and reachable to all citizens. In terms of environment, cities face both natural and build environmental challenges. There is a need to reduce usage of land and expand cities. Energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and population growth largely exerts pressure on the ecosystem and thwarts sustainable development. The improvement of social cohesion and the standards of living for all are the key challenges in modern cities. The final goal for smart cities is to enrich the lives of people, and in order to achieve this objective, it is necessary to address the growing numbers of unemployment and take advantage of the mix in population and demographic movements to enhance growth.

Smart City Solutions

The mission of smart cities is to spur economic development and improve the standards of living among citizens by enabling development among the locals and harness technology that results in smart outcomes.

The approach of area-based growth will significantly transform the existing areas through redeveloping and retrofitting. Such areas include slums that will be improved to make them better planned and thereby improving the standards of living of the entire city. Smart cities will also develop green fields around the cities with the aim of accommodating the ever growing population in urban cities. Governments adopting smart solutions will drive cities to the use of big data and related technologies to improve service delivery and infrastructure. In this manner, there will be comprehensive development geared towards improving the quality of life, job creation, and income for all citizens, particularly those who are disadvantaged. Smart cities will by this means build inclusive cities.

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