Wondering how to make your city smarter? But what does the buzzword “smart city” actually entails? What are the fields on which you could work on to turn your city into a “smart” one? And what are the first steps you should take for your smart city plans? Our small guide below should help you to get a clearer view on these matters.
The six pillars of a Smart City
Simply put, a Smart City is a city that leverages technology to address its urban issues. It uses information and communication technologies (ICT) to reduce costs, increase efficiencies and enhance the quality of life of its citizens in general.
When setting up your smart city plan, consider launching initiatives which include one or several of the following dimensions.
Smart Governance brings together all the relevant stakeholders of the city (including citizens, city officials and private companies) to improve its decision-making processes, generate synergies and improve its overall efficiency.
Online citizen participation is an example of a Smart Governance project. It allows local governments to leverage the expertise of their citizens and include their inputs when designing policies.
The City of Hasselt in Belgium has used an online participation platform to co-create with its citizens the renovation of its park.
Smart Economy entails the use of ICT to stimulate entrepreneurship, business and improve productivity at the city level.
Government-led initiatives such as La French Tech in France and Tech City in the UK aim at helping entrepreneurs launch and successfully grow their business by providing them funding, office space, and coaching.
Smart mobility is enabled by fully integrating logistics and transport systems within the city. The goal of such initiatives could be the reduction of urban congestion, the cutting of CO2 emissions and so forth.
The Smart City Barcelona project include a smart transportation initiative aimed at gradually increasing the number of zero-emission mobility options (hybrid taxies, public electric vehicles, recharging points, and many others).
Smart environment includes smart energy consumption (such as efficient resource use and renewables), pollution control, waste management, and green urban planning.
For instance, 8 Spanish cities have reduced their electricity consumption by 64% using smart street lighting.
Smart Living encompasses the creation of a cultural hub with diverse cultural facilities. It also includes quality housing and overall social cohesion.
Some cities have launched apps that helps tourists and citizens to get around and find real-time traffic data, information about cultural events, bars and many more.
Smart people is the development of e-skills for the population, an improved access to education and training, and an optimal allocation of human capital.
Molengeek is a government-backed organisation which provides computer science trainings in disadvantaged neighbourhoods of Brussels.
How to shape your Smart City plan
Most people (academia, private and public sectors) seem to agree on the benefits of shifting towards a Smart City model (the “why” part). Unfortunately, there is hardly any help for city officials when it comes to the design and implementation of a smart city plan (the “how” part).
The following framework provides intuitive guidelines to assist you in designing your Smart City plan.
Identify stakeholders and roles
Prior to developing a Smart City plan, it is critical that you clearly identify your processes, their outcome and the players involved in each of them. This should give you a clear overview on how your city functions.
Set your objectives
The second step is to define the high-level objectives that you want to reach. These can be higher economic growth, job creation, or reduced energy consumption.
Define your key metrics and indicators
Make sure that you define for each of your high level objective what constitute success and choose a few metrics that will allow you to track the evolution of your initiatives. Using global benchmarked indicators – such as the Global City Indicator Facility (GCIF), the Mercer Quality of Living Survey, and the Green City Index – could also be of great use in that context, since it allows to compare your city to the performance of others.
Map your assets
Each city possesses four main components: utilities, transportation, real estate, and city services. For each of these components, you should map the corresponding assets to get a clear overview of how your city is structured.
Report and measure against best practices
A consistent method of reporting should be defined in order to clearly render the different characteristics of each project and to allow comparison over time and between projects. Best practices can consequently be defined, which allow for an evaluation against the objectives that have been set.
Set up a team and get started
Your city faces already many challenges and many more are to come in the future. Whether your city is small or big, it is high time that you increasingly include technology in your way of doing things. Set up a team, choose a few fields that are a priority for you and start crafting a holistic Smart City plan.
Sources: Mapping Smart Cities in the EU (European Parliament), Smart City Framework (Falconer G., Mitchell S.)