How Smart City Frameworks meet Paradigms in Infrastructure

Smart City technology aligns very tightly with the new paradigms of better usage of infrastructure. While the end goal of Smart City technology can be varied, the ultimate goal of building a network around the infrastructure of a city is to enable greater connectivity. That connectivity can be in service of sustainable goals like better road usage to cut down on carbon emissions or tracking water use to better understand how to conserve. Technology for smart cities is usually powered by smart devices, usually termed IOT or the ‘Internet of Things, and can be equally well purposed for other goals such as security (video cameras) or wifi hotspot access across a city, and these are efforts that have less to do with sustainable resource use and more to do with consumer demand for the city of the future. The use of smart city technology is varied. However, it is in the paradigms of infrastructure usage that we can best understand why there is such a push to connect our city functions through technology. These technologies are inherently inclusive and make it easier both for government officials to manage cities better and more efficiently, as well as private citizens to involve themselves in making their own cities better in a number of sustainability and livability measures. Often, these two purposes go hand-in-hand, where cities that make us healthier and happier, are also the ones that have lower environmental impact.

To find out how inclusive this technology is, let’s examine the marketplace. The smart city market is expected to grow fast based on new investments to reach a $1.57 trillion market cap by 2020. Bloomberg says that companies are rebranding their existing products and the focus of their work towards Smart Cities. This is happening because cities are increasingly interested in adopting technology that connects their infrastructure to make themselves more environmentally friendly, as well as appeal to people deciding to live there based on a host of livability requirements tied to that environmental friendliness. The adoption of smart city technology says Business Insider, is a city led response to the more visible issues of growing population, traffic congestion and pollution. The Smart City revolution is really about inclusion, and being able to provide better services, for more people at an equal or diminished cost.

The European Union’s smart city initiative aims at increasing energy efficiency by 20% by 2020 by using smart metering and management of energy grids and streetlights. A perfect case study for the improvements made is found in Barcelona.

Barcelona offers a look at a city that is already implementing smart city and monitoring already. On the Barcelona city website, officials detail out that their goals are many. Smart city is about including citizens in a technological revolution, but is also focused towards specific city goals that overlap with sustainability targets and challenges. For this reason their implementation creates value that is both non-excludable and non-rivalrous: it creates more value in city services at no extra change. A big question with new technology is ‘how do you pay for it’ to improve the lives of those affected? The simple answer according to Peter Sany of TM forum is “You don’t pay for it, you reduce the cost of the existing systems’

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The benefits of building a smart city framework allow Barcelona and other cities like it to monitor and improve on resource usage, while holding up lofty goals like “encourag[ing] the use of technology to facilitate an active democracy and standardizing new models of participation”. For example, the focus for many cities is to trying build resiliency by meeting challenges collectively, and with special focus on climate change. This happens by mitigation, which starts with better usage of resources, and open sourcing solutions is a great way to share best practices and adapt them to specific city challenges. For example, the lag time in city response in New Haven, CT led to the creation of SeeClickFix, which is now a solution for cities worldwide so that individual citizens can report problems like pot holes, instead of sending teams from city departments to do manual checks. This particular example of inclusion assists better maintenance on many fronts. Citizens feel more engaged, city works are alerted to fixes they may not have seen before while saving resources and time in checking for them, and the feedback loop can alert all stakeholders to what steps have been taken in real time.

Energy.gov goes into further detail about how important it is to align stakeholders on more complex issues such as Smartgrid. Connecting such diverse actors like utility companies, citizens and governing bodies is the glue that allows cities to deal with complex issues with some degree of insight and accuracy. Knowing what makes a city tick, and giving that information to people trying to innovate better solutions, ends up being the way forward on a sustainable future and one that doesn’t leave segments of the population behind in planning.