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Fifty kilometres east of Tokyo we built a model community. A 1,000 home neighbourhood where everything looks pretty normal but where everyday life is infused with technology that makes it one of the most sustainable and resilient places to live on this planet — truly a smart city.

Fujisawa is powered by a solar smart grid, giving the neighbourhood the ability to run off-grid for up to seven days and the town’s carbon emissions are 70 per cent lower than the average community of its size. The roof of the community centre is a public space that sits above the tsunami flood line and, in the event of a natural disaster, the park benches convert to barbecue grills. The entire town is a virtual gated community with blanket 24-7 video surveillance coverage, allowing children to play safely, while their parents watch from their smart phones.

The model works — for Japan. Meanwhile, in a North American city, that kind of proposal would likely never make it off the page. The key to smart city building starts with a pretty basic concept — know your audience.

Right now we’re in the process of building a smart city from the ground up near Denver, Colo., called Peña Station Next and the conversations that have happened in Denver are very similar to those happening in Toronto right now. How much data collection is too much? Who controls it? And who gets access? These are all essential questions and they must not be afterthoughts of the planning process.

Most communities are interested in building smart cities but few are actually ready. In most cases that’s because the work has not been done to make sure everyone is pulling in the same direction.

In Toronto, stakeholder alignment is an ongoing issue for those at the helm of its smart city proposal, which has lead to some public disagreement between stakeholders, a couple of high-profile resignations and a healthy dose of skepticism from the public about what the upshot would be for them.

Toronto and the GTA are far from alone in facing down this challenge. It sounds obvious and it may sound easy, but it’s extremely tough to get large, complex organizations within cities to define and then agree to pursue collective objectives that will only be successful if we work on them together — and then to keep everyone focused on that over quarters, years and election cycles.

It requires difficult choices and all of the regional stakeholders involved in Toronto’s smart city initiative — from utilities to transit agencies to real estate developers — will likely have to make some concessions if the project is to move forward.

In Denver, it has meant that we’re using a fraction of all the available smart city technologies because, through our consultation with the municipality, the developers and the people who might want to live in this community, we’ve learned some of the options just aren’t a fit.

But it doesn’t mean we’re not innovating. For example, Peña Station Next will be home to the first large-scale deployment of connected vehicles in the U.S. There is a never-ending need to communicate but with that communication comes progress.

Fujisawa looks the way it does because the Japanese tend to have a different perspective and a higher level of comfort with the role data collection plays in their day-to-day lives. Translating the smart city model to North America has meant much more conversation about data collection and privacy. That’s fair and it’s right.

The thread that connects Fujisawa to Denver to Toronto is this: technology must come last and exist only to support human-centric design. And just because you have the technology doesn’t mean you should use it.

It’s not easy for a technology company to say that and it’s even harder to live that ethos. But the only way forward for smart cities is by letting the innovation take a back seat to some very analog concepts — facilitating, mediating and building consensus.

The first generation of smart city projects was about the technological breakthroughs and the shiny objects. The next generation can and must be about the people and the process.

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Autor(en)/Author(s): George Karayannis

Quelle/Source: The Toronto Star, 25.09.2019

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