Smart Cities and Ecosystems

What if cities could talk?  What would they say about the way energy is managed?  Water?  Parking?  Traffic?  Public transportation?  What would the city tell us about its health care systems?  Educational institutions?  Municipal government?

What would the city tell us about its infrastructure?  Buildings?  Roads?  Bridges?  Electrical Grids?  Sewage systems?  Pollution?  Public safety? Parks? Connectivity and communications?

What about soft indicators such as human urban dweller well-being?  Quality of life?  Tolerance?  Diversity?  Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?

Smart cities are giving voice to the urban centers around the world.  The data points and the underlying analytical science are just the tip of the iceberg.  The exciting new developments involve the creation of ecosystems.

Ecosystems are groups connected to each other in new and original configurations.  Smart city ecosystems also add a fourth dimension to the traditional triptych of urban public-private partnerships:  municipalities, universities, private companies…and you!

These new ecosystems are characterized by innovative forms of collaboration between local governments, research institutions, businesses and a high degree of citizen involvement.  Such strategies and the resulting urban ecosystems are becoming increasingly relevant given the urgent need to tackle growing social, economic and sustainability issues that cities are currently facing.

We are starting to see sophisticated advanced strategic planning and partnering frameworks emerge, giving meaning to terms such as green solutions, interconnectedness, open systems, integrated city layer management, lean municipal services.sample-slider-3-950x295

Reference model frameworks are being developed to address global sustainability challenges at a local level, thus articulating the global-local paradigm within Smart City initiatives.  These reference models are capturing international best practices and allowing local city management teams to adapt and adjust them to their specific situations.

Smart cities require ubiquitous broadband capabilities and advanced Information and Communications Technologies (ICT).  The intelligence in the networks, hardware and software do more than simply report information.  They provide the support systems whereby the communications are not just informative but interactive.

The ICT design is as important to the new generation of urban development as the road and rail systems were to previous generations.  Some of the world’s best urban planners and architects are working with the largest engineering and technologies companies to produce innovative solutions to urban energy, transportation, waste and water (in)efficiencies.

Private and public consultants research and analyze the role of ICT in improving citizen services in public safety, transportation, and public works; in fostering innovation and civic engagement; and in building successful models for the evolution of smart cities.

Unified communications, smart grids and meters, electronic ticketing are more than simple productivity tools.   This technology infrastructure is the prerequisite for a Smart City 2.0 where urban citizens are interacting with their city in real time.  Social media is playing a big role too.all_globe_rgb

The high degree of usage and interactivity among the city stakeholders is just as important as the technical design and function.  Sensors and monitors and surveillance systems need a human element.  Citizen buy-in and stakeholder mobilization is paramount to a successful smart city deployment.

To this end, city officials have launched competitions and benchmarks to provide a public scorecard to capture the attention of their constituents.  In addition to attracting businesses (and corresponding revenues) to their cities, smart city civic leaders want to implement smart government.

Cities need to differentiate themselves to attract investment and productive residents, and this, coupled with constrained financial resources, fast-growing populations, and aging infrastructures, is driving investment in smart city solutions.

In this way, the focus is not simply the general reduction of public expenses, but a positive, shared effort to create and maintain a sustainable, cost-effective and efficient urban environment to the benefit of all.

Input by citizens who agree to voluntarily contribute time and attention to their environment is essential to the success of the new ecosystems.  There has to be quality feedback loops in order to make the systems work well.  The bottom-up process is just as important as the top-down one.

Development can be neighborhood based, district by district, rather than grandiose projects implementing smart city designs all at once covering the entire metropolitan area.

Strategic alliance professionals and consultants are contributing to the program management office, governance and assisting with the complicated facilitation processes required to bring all the parties together in a harmonious manner.  Analysts provide best practice case studies and objective third-party assessments of smart city solution providers.

The vision – and the promise from those of us who are working hard to make smart cities a reality – is a city which is energy-efficient, where traffic is fluid; it is easy to navigate, there is little or no waste and pollution is kept at acceptable levels.  The city citizens are highly involved and truly care and feel responsible.

Forward looking municipal leaders – mayors and the permanent civil city officials – are leading the way.  Exciting ecosystem developments, inter-city competition, long-term investments by private companies and citizen involvement are making smart city design, build and run the reality of the best and most exciting evolutions in modern urban development.