Smart City has a multiplier effect on economic growth via technology adoption. With greater use of technology, many cities can accumulate data, deliver innovation, and enhance the lives of their citizens.

The Final Aim

The Final Aim of Smart City:

  1. To support better living, create more opportunities, support more robust and more cohesive communities, and improve the quality of life overall for all residents.
  2. To make better use of the public resources.
  3. To reduce the operational costs of the public administrations.

Smart City Index

But how do we know that the cities have reached the stage of “smartness” and meet their targets? Do we have an index to measure? For example, we can measure intelligence based on their IQ (Intelligence Quotient).

The cities have similarities with the human body. A human can keep the body healthy if we eat healthy food, exercise regularly, do not smoke, protect our skin, and many more. The same goes for our cities – we shouldn’t allow the city to be polluted, dirty, congested, exposed to disease, etc. Both the blood of a human and the traffic in the city must continuously flow. Otherwise, the whole body will lose oxygen (and the city will suffer economic or business breakdown).

The simplest basic form of maintaining health is an exercise through walking. The number of steps is recommended beyond 5000 steps daily. Studies showed 7000 steps and above are the more effective. Nowadays, people buy wearables that have pedometers. But how do we measure the health of the city? How do we measure the city in managing their traffic, cleanliness, effectiveness, responsiveness, and probably “smartness”?

The answer lies in the ability of the city to install relevant sensors, capture the data, aggregate them, and derive insights. The sensors can come from smartphones, fixed or wireless, attached to the city’s most relevant assets – buildings, roads, bridges, rivers, traffic lights, air, municipality’s resources, etc.

The opportunities to become a Smart City are tremendous. However, it also comes with various challenges ahead. 

3 Ways to Build Smart Cities

There are three (3) ways we can build Smart Cities:

  1. ROI-driven – the aim of rolling our smart city technologies is to generate income that can pay for its deployment and more—for example, smart parking or e-wallet for transportation.
  2. Carbon-driven – The aim is to reduce the carbon footprint and ideally become carbon neutral in the long term – for example, smart mobility using electric or autonomous cars that will reduce the number of vehicles on the roads.
  3. Vanity-driven – They are encouraged by events and vanity solutions where the world is watching and wants to be seen as “modern.”

“We can’t just copy the Smart City initiatives around the world and implement them in our country. Different country has different pain points. We should build smart cities through the eyes of our Citizens – Dr. Mazlan Abbas. “

India had one of the biggest smart cities projects globally when they launched “100 Smart Cities Mission” on 25 June 2015. Interestingly, their projects have different themes because of the diverse nature of problems. Their cities are considered “brownfields” since Millions of people have already occupied and lived in the area.

Thus, the city’s strategic framework must include the citizen approach. But how do we get feedback about the real problems of the citizens?

Technology to the Rescue!

Technology may help mitigate the “black hole” problem where we can’t see the problems citizens face daily. And it’s also costly to deploy sensors everywhere without knowing the right geographical areas.

Technology such as smart citizen engagement app can help to acquire this data cheaply:

  1. Make the invisible visible – Although sensors can’t be deployed everywhere, we can use the people themselves as the “eyes” or “sensors.” For example, the roads they are driving on daily. Or the unattended garbage in front of their house.
  2. Sensing the City – If the citizens can become the “sensors,” it will be a more cost-effective way of gathering teh data.
  3. Provide Tools for Citizens – We can give software tools (or apps) to the citizens to interpret and even change the workings of the city.
  4. Open data – By sharing the data gathered from the citizens, we can prioritize the investment in smart city projects. The open data can be accessible that allows innovations to happen. Companies can create new apps or solutions based on shared data.

Tips How-To Invest in Smart Cities

There are four (4) tips on how to start to invest in building smart cities:

  1. Educate the key decision-makers and build support.
  2. Use success stories from other cities, including vendor ROI and other performance metrics, to build a business case.
  3. Air for investment in discrete point solutions as pilots. It will reduce the complexity of project implementation at the early stage.
  4. Find critical private sector, associations, and universities as partners.

If you have further thoughts or suggestions, please leave your comments below.

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