The smart city transformations: the revolution of the 21st century
Canada and Australia are frequently rated as the best places to live in. Similarly, Paris and Hong Kong are consistently in the top ten cities ranked by global tourists. So are Bangkok and Singapore. Beijing has seen an amazing transformation in the last two decades and now has a cutting-edge and contemporary look. London has a fantastic local travel infrastructure.
Mexico City looks amazing but has a high crime rate in parts. Jakarta’s main business district has one of the best malls in the world but is quite crowded and dirty just a little away. Mumbai supports the livelihood of 20 million people, but more than half of them are living in slums.
Boasting of historical structures, Europe sets several cultural standards for others to follow. But now, many European cities have become crimeinfested and are unsafe to live. Religious conflicts are also on the rise. Dubai looks amazing and has the world’s best malls, but some say it lacks intellectual capital and a cultural identity. India is a country of ruins of old structures destroyed by the invaders, however, the villages are nice and green. The USA is nice everywhere, but crime levels are scary.
Which ones of these world’s places are Smart? Great roads, nice office buildings, beautiful residences? Do these good things add up to Smart?
smart is different from great
The great modern cities of today have managed the population growth and geographic expansion better than the not-so-great cities. They have also maintained the history and traditions, in addition to ensuring adequate access to food, water, transport and health.
Like we discussed, Smart is about getting more for less, and about harmonising life, work, culture, and nature. Based on these concepts, many of the great cities may actually be Smart, however, we need to find another scale and another set of metrics to measure Smart. Metrics for Smart are different from those measuring great. In addition, tourists’ view, city administrators’ view, and the citizens’ views are not likely to be same, as they are all looking for different aspects of the city and hence, have a different set of parameters to work with.
These great cities may be grand, historic, clean and awesome. We will have to assess them differently for a Smart quotient.
how to create a smart living
Smart is a relative term. So, when we talk about developing a new city that is Smart, or about adding a Smart feature, or changing an existing feature to something smarter, we talk in terms of a degree. Smart ideas and solutions keep evolving and keep the bar moving higher all the time.
Most countries have programmes to transform urban living. India is developing 100 smart cities. Europe, Japan, and China are at the forefront of this urban transformation. Some new cities are being developed with Smart concepts, whereas some existing ones are going through many minitransformations. Transportation, schools, government, hospitals, police and malls—everything under the sun is under consideration.
Smart is becoming a movement. Universities have departments and courses. Technology organisations have new divisions to focus on Smart. Governments are setting up departments to drive the Smart initiatives. Citizens are demanding Smarter cities.
Smart is also an overused term today—you may have observed practically every new feature in any device has a Smart prefix. Terms, such as Smart bed, Smart school, Smart TV, Smart kitchen, and Smart dumbbells often trivialise the foundation of the Smart concept.
In Chapter 3, we discussed the drivers of the Smart movement relating to environment and quality of life. We will talk about basic expectations from a Smart city in this chapter.
These are five broad features that all Smart cities must aspire for. They are: 01 Enhance and extend life—relates to the sustainability of life. 02 Access to services—conveniences and productivity. 03 Affordability—average citizens should be able to afford the Smart solutions of the Smart city. 04 Availability of Information— transparency of process, efficiency in decision making. 05 Anticipate future—intelligence all around to help individuals, businesses as well as the community administration make quick decisions, either automatically or with human intervention.
enhance and extend life air and water
A Smart city must ensure a breathable and healthy quality of air. Cities that make its citizens sick due to pollution are not Smart—a Smart city government must pre-empt such a decay of the city. We discussed this in the earlier chapter.
Many countries end up spending a disproportionate amount of money in transporting and cleaning water. About 80 per cent of illnesses in poor countries are caused by poor water quality.
Clean water and clean air are fundamental rights in the Smart world.
enhance and extend life—healthcare
Good health means long and comfortable life with no or little physical discomfort.
Health management and delivery of health services to citizens operate on several financial models. In some countries, the government sets up health management centres using the money collected from taxes, and citizens avail these services for free or at a nominal cost. If private companies run the health facilities, then the government fully or partially reimburses the citizens or the health centres. Canada, Sweden and the UK are examples of a governmentdriven healthcare system. In another model, the government regulates the healthcare services run by private companies, as in the USA. Health management organisations manage the services delivered through the health centres. India has a dual system where the government provides full healthcare, but at the same time, private healthcare centres flourish as they are considered better. ■
Smart is becoming a movement. Universities have departments and courses. Technology organisations have new divisions to focus on Smart.