New Frontiers for Geomatics - 28/10/2013

Harnessing the Smart City Space of Tomorrow

Monica Wachowicz, University of New Brunswick, Canada

Over the next decade, the real-time smart city is likely to become a reality in many of the world’s cities. Co-ordination, communication, coupling and integration are all different methods involved in developing the smart city space of tomorrow. This will require new types of databases, new methods of mining and pattern analysis, and new software developments that largely run on digital networks while at the same time being related to traditional movements and locational activity. Extremely clear conceptions of how location intelligence might be used for planning at different scales and over very different time periods are critical to this focus.

Although the ‘smart city’ is no longer a new concept, there are still various interpretations of what a smart city actually entails. The term ‘smart’ applied to cities stems from the concept of ‘smart growth’ which has been widely used to imply intelligent behaviour. Smart cities are conceptualised through the synergy of a widespread ICT layer embedded into the urban fabric together with economy and governance that are driven by innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship (Kitchin 2013). But cities are complex systems par excellence; they are more than the sum of their parts and are becoming more complex through the very technologies that we are using to understand them.

The Impact of Hyperconnectivity

Hyperconnectivity has changed the way we do things and every interaction in our lives. Cities are being built with powerful digital networks, allowing the hyperconnectivity of digital devices that are already producing big data which holds the promise of what some see as a truly real-time smart city. North America and Europe combined make up 70% of today’s global big data total (McKinsey Global Institute 2011).

Cities, however, can only be really ‘smart’ if there are intelligent functions that are able to integrate and synthesise this big data for some purpose – namely, ways of improving the efficiency, equity, sustainability and quality of life in those cities. In fact, the term ‘smart city’ has been adopted by companies that are developing global ICT – from infrastructure such as networks to software as services. These companies are beginning to generalise their products in this way, since they see markets in cities representing the next wave of service development in today’s globally distributed world. Leaders in smart-city capabilities are companies such as IBM, Cisco, Buro Happold, Siemens, GE, Accenture, SAIC, Alstom, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, ABB, Black & Veatch, Oracle, Samsung, Philips, SAP, Home Depot and Autodesk, all of whom are looking to make their mark in the smart-city space of tomorrow.

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Last updated: 29/09/2015