Smart cities can address the challenges of an increasing urban population.
Smart cities can address the challenges of an increasing urban population.
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SMART CITIES Collaboration: the key to developing smart cities

Author / Editor: Jamie Thomson / Isabell Page

According to a study by McKinsey, the world’s 600 fastest-growing cities will account for 60% of global economic growth between 2010 and 2025. For cities to sustain this level of growth, resources and infrastructure need to be carefully managed. One approach that’s being adopted by governments in Europe and the world over, is the development of smart cities.

Essentially, a smart city is a framework that uses technology as a driving force to tackle growing urbanisation challenges. Smart cities enable urban environments to become more economically and environmentally resilient through innovations that provide better mobility, enhanced security and better employment opportunities.

The first recognised smart city was Seoul, which implemented its smart city initiative in 2003. Since its introduction, the city has managed to increase uptake of its bus and subway services from 30% to 70% and reduce its then-rising car usage to 30%.

Undoubtedly, smart cities can improve urban environments and enhance the quality of life of their residents. However, in order to successfully implement smart initiatives, collaboration between governments, organisations and local communities is essential.

The power of collaboration

A smart city framework is based on an intelligent network of connected objects and devices that send and receive data through wireless technology and the cloud. With a network of interconnected devices, city command centres can manage data in real-time, which helps municipalities make better decisions regarding resources and infrastructure.

For example, in a smart city, connected cars can communicate with parking meters, traffic lights respond to real-time traffic, smartphones act as digital identification and energy distribution is streamlined to improve air quality.

One example that demonstrates the power of is the GrowSmarter project, which sees best practice sharing between the cities of Stockholm, Cologne and Barcelona. The project has achieved some remarkable results in creating lower energy districts, integrating infrastructures and achieving sustainable urban mobility. The project has even published its own recommendations for policymakers and practioners on how to develop smart initiatives.

Information sharing beyond city limits

According to the UN, today 54% of the global population live in cities, with proportions expected to reach 66% by 2050. Through best practice sharing, more cities can overcome the challenges associated with an increasing population.

Scaling smart city innovations beyond city limits encourages the creation of standards, regulations and experimentations, which can increase the speed at which cities achieve ‘smart’ sustainability.

For example, road-to-vehicle communications can mature at a faster rate, enabling cities to create infrastructures for autonomous vehicles. Smart energy grids can be scaled more effectively through partner collaborations that enforce rules and regulations. Data sharing can help cities learn from the success of others an anticipate security challenges.

Without best practice sharing, cities are limited in their ability to predict the impact of implementing smart frameworks, which consequently, stifles progress.

One example of a city sharing its framework is Manchester. The CityVerve project aims to demonstrate how a smart city works at scale by providing a replica model for other cities to implement.

The need for open architecture

According to recent research from HPE Aruba, 49% of cities are struggling to integrate older technology with new. To create a sustainable smart city framework that can scale across local regions, open architectures are needed. Smart cities need an infrastructure that’s open to partner collaboration. It needs to be built on open standards, open source coding and open APIs.

Open architectures enable smart city services to be added to existing infrastructures. The more open APIs that are available, the more flexibility cities have in integrating new features with existing technologies.

Open source platforms such as FIWARE help accelerate the development of smart cities by enabling interaction between IoT sensors, devices and information systems. They enable data to be processed in real-time, providing valuable insights that aid cities in their decision making and planning. Open architectures also consider the user experience and can enable the creation of dashboards that monitor activity across the city and generate reports.

In summary

Collaboration is one of the most important elements of developing a smart city. For best practice sharing to be effective, local community infrastructures need to be considered individually. Scalability solutions need to be tailored to meet local needs with the overall aim being to overcome specific challenges.