iSoftStone recently hosted the Smart City Hub Meetup group’s first summer event in their Kirkland, WA office. The meetup group brings together individuals interested in advancing smart cities and IoT technology in the Pacific Northwest. After six months, and more than 20 events, the group has grown to over 250 innovators. Members include smart city startups, entrepreneurs, engineers, scientists, designers, developers and city leaders and officials. The most recent meetup was hosted by iSoftStone Director of Smart Cities, Greta Knappenberger, and CIO of Technology Professionals Programs, Northwest Region at IDC, Kirsten Moran. Main talking points included:
- Identifying what is a “smart city”
- Defining why smart cities are important
- Outlining steps to transformation
- Offering recommendations
What is a smart city?
So, what exactly is a smart city? Smart cities have become a popular buzz word, but there is no universally accepted definition. “From IDC’s perspective, a smart city is defined as a city that is working towards the digital transformation of an urban ecosystem to meet environmental, financial and social outcomes,” said Kirsten Moran.
Greta Knappenberger defined a smart city as “the effective integration of physical, digital and human systems in the built environment to deliver a sustainable, prosperous and inclusive future for all citizens” (BSI Group).
In general, smart cities use technology to solve business problems, deliver measurable outcomes and drive action with the goal of more efficient resource management, carbon footprint reduction, public safety improvements and enhanced service offerings for citizens and visitors.
Why do smart cities matter?
There are four numbers that characterize the importance of smart cities: two, 50, 75 and 80. Globally, cities account for just two percent of the planet’s surface (196.9 million square miles), but are home to 50 percent of the population. In addition, cities are responsible for 75 percent of energy consumption and 80 percent of carbon dioxide emissions. By 2050, the UN forecasts as much as 70 percent of the world’s population will live in cities. That’s six billion people, almost doubling the current 3.6 billion urban residents.
To put this in perspective, in 1800 there were only three cities that had more than one million inhabitants. Those cities were London, Peking and Edo (now Tokyo). One hundred years later that figure had risen to just 16. Today, there are more than 440 cities with one-million plus residents.
So why do smart cities matter? Because a concerted global effort focusing on new civic technologies is required to accommodate rapid urbanization, as well as enable populations to coexist in a healthy and efficient environment. From IDC’s perspective, the rate at which a city implements these new technologies is central to the global competitiveness of their respective country. Kirsten pointed out six key benefits of smart city development, including:
- Global competition to attract and develop talent and industry
- Coping with swelling growth in urban populations
- Managing growing energy needs
- Addressing fears around climate change
- Increasing economic inequality
- Bridging the digital divide
Recommendations and the road to transformation
So how does a city become a “smart city”? What does that transformation look like? Kirsten outlined IDC’s five fundamental elements for creating a smart city:
Kirsten discussed four key reasons why companies should start “smart” now:
Attract talent and engage citizens
The main purpose of smart cities should not just be to save money. Although saving money is a clear benefit, they should also be desirable and fun to live in. There are numerous examples of how smart cities can enhance a citizen’s experience within their urban environment. For example, in Bristol, England, a custom-built infrared sensor system was temporarily added to streetlamps in 2014 to record pedestrians’ shadows as they walked past. The shadows were then projected back through the streetlights for others to see later. The project, called “Shadowing”, won the Playable City Award and was created as a public art installation. Shadowing used city infrastructure and smart city technologies to create connections and invite interaction between people who walked along the same path moments, days or weeks before, and served as a unique way to bring citizens into the city development conversation.
Citizen centricity & information transmission
Citizen centricity is fundamental to making smart cities a reality. ICT solutions provide real time data with the power to significantly impact citizens’ lives by making information more readily available. Every city has its own priorities, such as creating new sources of revenue or enticing people to move to specific locales. On one hand, cities like Yinchuan China who are global leaders in smart city initiatives, maintain a strong focus on driving solid monetary ROI. By contrast, Dubai recently launched a “happiness meter” which collects digital inputs from citizens to gauge their mood in real-time. Using the “happiness meter” officials capture actual data to determine what it’s like to live in their city and respond accordingly to citizen needs.
3rd platform advantage
The “3rd Platform” is a new computing platform utilizing the cloud at its core and 3rd platform solutions that offer anywhere, anytime access to application functionality. According to Kirsten, IDC believes 3rd platform solutions will be the primary growth driver of the ICT industry over the next decade. The 3rd platform offers massive scale, reaching trillions of devices, monitors, and sensors, and billions of users through millions of new applications and services. The benefits of 3rd platform technologies include creating value and competitive advantage through new offerings, new business models and new relationships.
Smart city technologies offer clear financial incentives and other benefits which have instant ROI attached. Cities that embrace IoT technology increase sustainability by optimizing use of resources such as water, energy, fuel and waste. LED lightbulbs, for example, saved the city of Los Angeles $8 million per year, while adopting IoT driven smart water and lighting systems saved Barcelona more than $75 million euros in 2014. In addition, smart cities build strong, well-informed and healthy communities. From a growth perspective, smart cities attract new business, which attract individuals with talent ultimately creating a more livable, workable and prosperous place to live. “When smart cities operate in harmony, their citizens, industries and environments thrive”.
Get plugged in! Join the Smart City Hub Meetup
Throughout the summer, iSoftStone and Smart City Hub Meetup will be partnering to host events focused on smart city initiatives. These events will bring together leaders and innovators from across the Puget Sound. Interested in smart city initiatives in the Seattle area? Get plugged in!
For more information on IDC visit: http://www.idc.com/
For more information about iSoftStone’s smart city capabilities visit: http://isoftstoneinc.com/consulting/#smartcity