The Smart Cities supplement in The Times in the UK includes contributions from Connected Urban Development projects. The examples of how a connected world can be enhancing to citizens and as part of resource planning is one area that the cities and Cisco are pursuing.
In the ‘digital revolution will create joined-up cities’ article Nicola Villa - global director, Connected Urban Development, at Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group refers to the HealthPresence technology as an example of how the connected world can provide benefits for consumers. Patients will be able to consult their doctor using ‘telepresence’ technology and remote sensors to receive a more accurate diagnosis and treatment without leaving their home, furthermore we can access local government services online, on demand.
The Personal Travel Assistant (PTA) in Seoul and Amsterdam is another example where travel information from those cities is accessible from any device to enable smart decision making, and highlighting green choice and route information.
The Data Avalanche
In 2010 we see a groundswell of open data initiatives across the world, and in our experience a disparate, un-coordinated and un-standardised approach in various jurisdictions. As we see our physical infrastructure, buildings, devices, spatial sensors and even all objects become connected through RFID and QR code tagging, this presents further challenges as data flows exponentially grow in our connected lives. Furthermore as we become more connected, the expectations of the benefits of this become more pressing. As Nicola highlights “One of the big issues will be how to collect data from a wide range of sources, such as smart grids, buildings and electric vehicles as they become more and more live. How to aggregate those data and overlay them on top of each other, how to develop some predictive capability, how to help consumers make better decisions and bring data into government policymaking - these are the big challenges.”
A further consideration is the cultural shift in public services administrations. Data can be triangulated for specific territories from crowdsourced opt-in data, and proxy sources, such as mobile phone signals, whereas the willingness to share data from public adminstrations and infrastructure providers is asymmetric across different cities and countries. As Nicola refers to from the experiences in Rome, such proxy data sourcing to cross reference to municipal provided transportation data has encountered “real resistance to sharing information.” Of course this takes us into a much wider, and separate discussion for another posting, on trust, privacy and data protection.
All of these exciting developments towards smart+connected communities have an ambition to be enhancing to our daily lives but also to contribute to the ’smart’ panacea that is being sought by cities, governments, companies and other interested agencies, in the groundswell of activity towards ’smart cities’. This is of course the imperative to deliver sustainability objectives as well as economic growth whilst facing an unprecedented period of urbanisation. Furthermore, a demographic crisis, natural resource demands, and a globalised economy are all making smart+connected communities vital to our local and sustained prosperity. In the ‘Smart thinking needed to keep cities on the road to prosperity’ article in this Smart Cities supplement in The Times Dimitri Zenghelis from Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group and associate fellow at Chatham House states that sustainability “…does not just reduce emissions, but produces growth benefits as well. In the short run, it allows businesses to make efficiency gains. There is a lot of waste at an urban level, as a result of market failures, missing markets or perverse incentives, so this is a quick win.” Zenghelis points out that cities are laboratories for innovation, observing that ‘“the bulk of patents in cleantech originate in urban areas.”
The crucial aspect to the layering of the city and the “smart” justifications for this is the appropriate policy and governance frameworks to enable this. Zenghelis points out that “If we don’t have the right right policy framework to set the right standards and incentives, and provide the security that investors need, then cities will tend to underprovide the sustainable goods and services we need.” Zenghelis believes cities will have little choice but to forge cross sector and organisational partnerships, “Ultimately, cities will have no choice but to move in that direction. We are going to be living in a carbon and resource-constrained world and policy responses and incentives will push cities into dealing with these realities. Those that do this earliest will be in a better position to develop new markets and take advantage of growth opportunities.”
The Partnership Network
These topics will all be debated at the forthcoming Partnership for Urban Innovation: Global Conference in Shanghai on the 17-18 June 2010. The perspectives from China will be most illuminating in this regard. We’ll continue the debate on this topic here throughout the lead-in and after the conference…..