Related terms: smart city, e-topia
What is it?
This is a broad trend, with far-reaching impact across real and virtual worlds. And that also makes it hard to define.
We like the description by Spanish economist and lawyer Gildo Seisdedos Domínguez who says: “The smart city concept essentially means efficiency. But efficiency based on intelligent management and integrated ICTs, and active citizen participation. This implies a new kind of governance and genuine citizen involvement in public policy.”
What makes it a very exciting trend is that we are moving beyond economic and environmental innovations that focus only on creating a more low-carbon, sustainable and environmentally friendly urban landscape.
Builders of the smart city of the future are also looking at how new technology can be used to improve health and social care, education and crime prevention, making cities and their inhabitants healthier, smarter and safer.
Ok, so what does that mean in practice?
Well, for example in the UK the development of an online patient platform for the elderly has cut the cost of homecare by a fifth; new sensor technology has brought down violent crime outside pubs and bars by a third in the center of Manchester. Smart bracelets and apps are already increasing safety for women and children who can alert loved ones if they are being threatened or harassed.
Across the world, online interactive teaching platforms will make education available to people in remote areas, while at the same time reducing migration to large – and often already overcrowded – cities. This could be a real game changer in countries like China and India.
On an infrastructural level, wireless sensor networks can measure parameters such as pollution levels and traffic congestion, but they can also control street lighting, irrigation in parks and rubbish collection.
Where is it happening?
It’s happening across the world, with examples from Dubai to Verona and Yokohama to San Francisco. However, the South Korean capital Seoul is without a doubt one of the frontrunners, with plans to roll out a superfast 5G network as early as 2017 (the rest of us will have to wait until 2020 to get 5G).
While no one really knows how it will change things, the promise of 5G networks is immense. It has the potential to drive future economic growth, not only by creating new jobs, but also by generating entirely new markets and economic opportunities driven by mobile in industries ranging from healthcare to automotive to infrastructure. The ultimate dream is to merge the real world and the virtual world into a totally seamless experience.
And why do we think this is cool?
While some of this stuff sounds like it comes straight out of a futuristic movie, in the end, what this tech boost means is that more people in all parts of the world will have access to healthcare and education, and that they will be living in safer environments. In this respect, the tech society and smart cities have the potential of creating more socially inclusive spaces, where the benefits of technology reach across all social strata.
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