News roundup: Measuring Dublin’s dumpsters, the UN defines “Smart City,” Silicon Valley has a crush on cities
How do we measure a “smart city”?
As “smart city” has evolved into a meme, some experts are trying to bring clarity to the definition of a smart city for practical purposes. The UN's Sustainable Development Solutions Network has launched an effort to identify common solutions and highlight best practices. They break sustainable development into 12 thematic groups, which they detail in a recent publication, Sustainable Cities: Inclusive, Resilient, and Connected.
Part of the suggestion is to improve standardization in ICT in order to accelerate adoption, scale, and positive outcomes. As noted by the International Telecommunications Union’s Turin Roadmap launched at the 8th ITU Symposium on ICT and Environment Change in May 2013, “the potential of ICTs in urban development can only be achieved if applications seamlessly interoperate, regardless of service provider or vendor. This will require the development of international standards, harmonized frequency spectrum, and the application of enabling policies and best practices.”
The Turin Roadmap sets the following goals in order to encourage smart sustainable cities:
- Defining: Smart sustainable cities, and the role of ICTs in meeting the challenges they face.
- Engaging cities: Establish a Charter for Smart Sustainable Cities with measurable objectives relating to engagement, performance, and collaboration, and invite cities to sign it
- Adopting a holistic approach
- Standardizing: A methodology for assessing the environmental impact of ICTs in cities in collaboration with other relevant organisations and experts taking into account a life cycle perspective.
- Developing: A set of key performance indicators (KPIs) which would allow cities to monitor the sustainability impact of ICTs over time. These KPIs could include basic metrics such as, but not limited to, air quality index, water quality index, waste recycling rates, resource use, sustainable transport systems and access to green areas.
- Best practices and lessons learned: Help disseminate best practices by establishing a platform where smart sustainable cities around the world can provide information on the implementation of successful practices.
- Behavioural change
- Measuring success: Carry out pilot and flagship demonstration projects to demonstrate “smart sustainable” ICT solutions to build smart sustainable cities by utilizing new technologies and international standards. Identify strengths and weaknesses of implementation strategies, report success stories, best practices, lessons learned, cost implications in dealing with the challenges met and innovative solutions used.
- Mobilizing expertise
New sensor networks and big data
Two recent examples of city-wide use of sensor networks are in Dublin, Ireland and Santander, Spain. Dublin is tackling traffic congestion problems not by modifying historic roads, but by making real-time data analysis from road sensors and GPS data from 1,000 city buses available in searchable traffic reports to its residents. The Spanish port city of Santander now has 12,000 sensors buried under asphalt, on street lamps, and riding city buses. The sensors measure air pollution, available parking spaces, can dim street lights when no one is around, and can even tell garbage collectors which dumpsters are full. The data can be displayed on mobile devices and parking availability can be shown on digital displays at every block, plus citizens can interact and submit photos of potholes or broken streetlight for maintenance. This pilot project will save the city 25% on electricity bills and 20% on garbage, plus utility companies are paying for the sensors’ operations since it saves them money too.
Leveraging the big data that already circulates through all of our urban systems can yield important improvements, such as IBM’s research project to model movement data from the largest release of anonymized cell phone user data, in the Ivory Coast in West Africa. Their model evaluated 65 possible improvements to transportation mobility and concluded that adding two routes and extending an existing one could yield the maximum 10 percent time savings for commuters. The mobile phone data was released through an effort by Orange’s Data for Development program, which held a competition among one hundred research projects to use the data to improve development, from which four winners were chosen.
Silicon Valley says that cities can move the needle
Sustainable Silicon Valley, a nonprofit collaboration between local governments, businesses, and civic organizations, held an annual WEST Summit hosted by NASA Ames Research Center. California Governor Jerry Brown attended to accept a consensus statement signed by over five hundred scientists urging policy makers to take action.
A panel on Intelligent Integrated Infrastructure, featuring the City Manager of Palo Alto and industry executives from SAP, Grok, Silver Spring Networks, and Google, discussed their thoughts on what it takes to accelerate smart infrastructure, how it can be economical, and the challenges of behavior change. They reinforced how cities are the solution for climate change in the future, due to their manageable scale, common goals of serving residents, and solution-oriented mentality. Furthermore, cities can help convene stakeholders and create gravity around a topic, improving the speed and clarity of solutions and business cases.
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Spotlighting innovations in urban sustainability and connected technology
While 2018 was filled with a number of successful smart city deployments, it also revealed significant challenges that will only intensify in years to come. The most pressing challenge to be addressed throughout 2019 is earning the public’s trust in smart city projects. Towards the end of 2018, we saw major data privacy concerns emerge from citizens. From these concerns a heated, but healthy discourse between citizens, local governments, and private sector companies rose to mainstream media prominence. Citizens’ expectations of privacy have begun to challenge the murky data privacy policies described by many in the private sector. 2019 will be the year of the smart city for the citizen.
Collaboration extends beyond City Hall. Unlike a city like New York, where most government functions are under the purview of the municipal government, a city the size of Chula Vista (population 268,000) or smaller has to collaborate with regional partners, such as school districts, hospital districts, water districts, the port district, and neighboring cities. By keeping dialogue open and working together on major projects we’ve opened up new opportunities for economic development, smart cities pilot initiatives and education.
AVs can move more people in fewer vehicles on less congested streets compared to private cars. This means that some London streets could be made narrower and spare street space can be reallocated for other uses including bus lanes, cycling lanes, or expanded pavements. Street space can also be released for vegetation, allowing for cleaner streets and better storm water management.