BUILDING A SMART CITY
Seek innovation for greatness
To become a “smart city,” Vancouver’s planners and developers should be looking to innovative counterparts like Bristol, Barcelona and Chicago, which are tapping into the exponentially growing amount of data and the Internet of Things, says Nikolas Badminton, a futurist, author and teacher.
Badminton said commercial real estate players should also be paying close attention to urban innovation and technology, as cities like Vancouver become more densely populated and globally connected.
On April 11, Badminton — an Englishman who has lived in Vancouver for the past nine years — shared some of his thoughts on smart cities with commercial real estate stakeholders at the Vancouver Real Estate Forum.
“I don’t think I’ve met anyone here (at the forum) who wants to maintain the status quo,” Badminton told The Sun in an interview after his presentation. “I think people really want to push the thinking about what real estate can be. They know to be competitive in commercial real estate they’ve got to offer something different.”
Vancouver has much work to do to earn a reputation as a smart city, he said. “It doesn’t mean that they’re not going to make progress in the next few years. It just means that there has to be some capital investment in that,” he said. “We’re going to have to look to businesses leading the way, as well as citizens being engaged.”
THE CITY OF BARCELONA SETS A GOOD EXAMPLE
While facing economic challenges, Barcelona’s city planners started looking for ways to optimize their city’s operations, he said. They wanted to make the city smarter.
“They started investing in data pipes. They started investing in smart lampposts and sensors and smart waste to really optimize,” he said. The city is now saving millions of euros a year, he said.
“They had to be brave at the beginning, but they did the cost analysis and they realized the payback was going to be pretty good. Now they’re ahead of the game and everybody is trying to catch up.”
Badminton said people in the commercial real estate industry need to realize that space and property is about humans and community. Everything else is secondary.
“A lot of people think there’s a lot of distance between people in Vancouver. I think a lot of that distance can be closed by developing the right kinds of commercial spaces and businesses to bring people together,” he said.
Badminton likes to drop talking points like “data is the new oil.” He mentions stats such as: By 2020, 2.83 billion people in the world will have smartphones; and by 2050, 86 per cent of the global population will live in cities.
THE INTERNET OF THINGS
By 2020, there will be 50.1 billion devices worldwide that are connected to the Internet, he said. “That growth is incredible. What do we do with all that data?”
The answer, he said, is to use it to build and operate smarter cities.
“We’re surrounded by things that are watching us, listening to us, soaking up our data and putting us into reports and helping companies get closer to what we actually want,” he said.
BRISTOL IS OPEN AND THE ARRAY OF THINGS
In England, the University of Bristol and Bristol city council have jointly launched Bristol is Open. It’s a venture that is turning Bristol into a programmable city with an underground fibre broadband network, a super-computer city operating system, a fleet of self-driving cars and a canopy of data-collecting lampposts around the city.
“(Using that data) means that everyone is getting their job done a lot better,” he said.
Last summer, Chicago launched the Array of Things, an urban sensing project that will include 500 sensor nodes around the city that measure air quality, climate, traffic and other urban features. The open data is expected to help researchers, city officials and software developers understand and solve problems that the city faces, while making operations more efficient.
Developers and planners here need to get on board with similar projects and quickly, Badminton said.
“It’s going to have an immense impact on your business and the way that businesses work together going forward and on the people who live in cities.”
Badminton said commercial real estate brokers and developers are responsible for helping to maintain the “soul” of the city.
“Cities that set their own agenda are the most resilient,” he said. “We can program our cities the way we want them to be.”
Nikolas Badminton, a futurist, author and teacher, speaks at the Vancouver Real Estate Forum on Tuesday.