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The concept of smart cities has roots going back as far as the 1960s and 1970s when the idea of using technology to improve the lives of citizens first emerged. However, it wasn't until the 1990s and early 2000s that the concept began to take its modern form, driven by the rapid advancement of the Internet, broadband connectivity and new technologies such as IoT (Internet of Things), cloud computing and big data analytics.

The term "smart city" itself gained popularity in the 2010s, as cities around the world started implementing technology-driven solutions to improve public services, enhance sustainability and make urban areas more livable and efficient.

We are currently seeing massive investments across the globe, with the aim of spurring this type of innovation. In the U.S., for example, the U.S. Department of Transportation released $94.8 million in federal funding in 2023 to support 59 projects aimed at boosting road safety, improving transit reliability and using drones and sensors for new projects.

In Canada, meanwhile, the federal government has run a Smart Cities Challenge, where municipalities from around the country can nominate projects and win a cash prize to move them forward. The City of Montreal won CAD 50 million in 2019 to pursue its Montreal in Common project, for example.

While there’s clear movement and interest in this space, cities around the world are built on legacy infrastructure, systems and processes that need to be completely rebuilt in order to execute the modern, innovative concepts that define smart cities.

Consider this: Some of the smartest cities out there are like Dubai, which is a relatively young city that was built on smart city concepts from the ground up. Its Smart Dubai Platform aims to build a digital backbone for the entire city, providing digital services to citizens and businesses, blockchain strategies for secure and efficient government transactions and ambitious plans for autonomous transportation. Of course, historical cities like Tokyo, Copenhagen, Singapore and New York City also embrace smart city initiatives.

Being a smart city is, after all, not one size fits all as each has its own approach to becoming a smart city. The goals, however, are consistent. Leverage technology to improve sustainability and efficiency, and enhance the livability of its citizens.

Making Cities Smarter

Efficiency is something that every organization can improve and is a great way for any city to become smarter. Increasing efficiency frees valuable resources for other tasks and can immediately provide new self-serve services to citizens. Take a look at any municipality’s processes and systems—regardless of where they’re located—and you’re bound to find data silos, redundant processes and inefficiencies. By connecting and integrating all of a city’s systems to act as one, the city government can streamline data handling.

Next, making data more accurate brings many benefits. Whether you’re trying to make your transit system more reliable, improving the reach and availability of your emergency services or digitizing your healthcare offerings, you need reliable access to accurate data.

Let’s take Santa Clara County (a customer of my company) as an example. With a population of 2 million, the county was looking to improve its emergency services response time and location accuracy. The team integrated 17 city datasets to support building a dynamic map for the dispatch system. With this shift, they were able to increase the number of known addresses in the county by 50%. That’s huge. And it means that citizens can better trust that they will get timely responses in the case of an emergency.

Another example of a smart city in action can be seen in Montréal, the city that won the Canadian government’s Smart Cities Challenge, which was referenced earlier in this article. The overreaching theme for Montréal’s smart city project is "sustainability." By harnessing the power of data, the city is focused on improving Montréal’s mobility (transportation), food and government collaboration and decision-making processes. This looks like reducing single-occupant vehicle car trips, reducing waste along the food distribution chain, supporting the responsible use of data in the community and more.

The road to smart cities around the world is a long one, but it is important to note that there are many benefits along the way, as outlined above. Every city's journey will be different, and the journey is never complete. No matter how “smart” your city is, there is always more that can be done to increase efficiencies and make it even more livable.

Not only is the journey dependent on a city’s ability to gather, process and integrate data but also on where to get funds to support becoming smarter. Without exception, the cities that have been able to become smarter are the ones that have access to local and federal funding—usually, large cities that have the ability and resources to build proposals and execute large projects.

As we continue to determine what best practices look like and where repeatable successes occur, it will be important for everyone to share that information so that other municipalities can replicate the successes to help other cities become "smarter."

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Autor(en)/Author(s): Don Murray

Quelle/Source: Forbes, 10.05.2024

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