The “Smart City” concept has been around for some time now, and indeed in several cases the term has been retroactively adopted for projects and services that were already underway in many cities.
However, only recently has the idea of the “Smart City” evolved into more concrete initiatives, as cities across the world address the challenges and the opportunities that becoming “smarter” can bring.
There is still no single definition of what a Smart City is, but in simple terms you could say a city becomes smarter when it makes use of digital technologies to create a sustainable and economically strong urban environment that offers a high quality of life to its inhabitants.
At ZTE, we define current smart city developments as “Smart City 1.0”. Looking ahead, we have adopted the concept of “Smart City 2.0", a concept that essentially emphasises the collaboration and governance within the overall eco-system to better address the challenges that have frustrated industry participants to date.
In our view, Smart City 2.0 is better equipped to solve the core issues regarding sustainable operation and maintenance, all-inclusive digital ecosystem and an optimised industry chain. As a result, Smart City 2.0 helps to achieve the crucial goals of smart cities including citizen benefits, scientific administration and industry derivation.
Many industry players believe that creating successful smart cities will be an economic, financialand political challenge rather than an engineering accomplishment.
Certainly, funding will be a fundamental part of any Smart City plan. Here, greater collaboration between private industry and public bodies will be essential to ensure that projects can be realised, while solutions to problems must be measurable and incentives should be transparent.
Although there is growing consensus that technology is not the main problem on the road to smarter cities, we should not underestimate the technical challenges that lie ahead. Indeed, there is still a great deal of discussion about architectures and platforms, and implementation is also a hurdle that will have to be overcome because many cities are not centrally controlled.
It goes without saying that telecoms operators are set to play a leading role in the smart city evolution. Not only do they provide the networks that form the basis for increased connectivity, but they also have relationships with the end users -- the people who live in cities -- who will be at the centre of every Smart City project.
At the recent TM Forum Smart City event in Yinchuan, China, the overwhelming message from delegates was that the citizens themselves should be placed firmly at the centre of any and every Smart City project. Thus, understanding the wants and needs of people within cities is a challenge that must be addressed right from the start.
Radhika Venkatraman, SVP and CIO of network and technology at Verizon Wireline, said technology and connectivity form the basis of a Smart City, but stressed that the most important objective is to have happier citizens.
She added that 2 billion people are expected to move to cities in the next 30 years. “It’s a mind-numbing number,” Venkatraman said.
Another operator, Telkom Indonesia, lists 10 key components of a smart city including smart infrastructure and technology as well as more personal aspects such as safety for citizens, creating a pleasant environment in which to live and work and driving sustainability and efficiency. In its framework of a smart city, the smart user is placed at the top, underpinned by integrated city management and ICT infrastructure.
Overall, the benefits of a smarter city, where solutions are properly implemented, cannot be underestimated. Widespread connectivity and an improvement in transportation, parking, government services and more will in turn enable cities to provide sustainable, economically successful and ultimately better environments for their citizens. If done well, a smarter city is a happier city.