Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Are smart cities really smart?

Hi again!

Several months ago, the mayoral candidate of the local branch of Spanish Socialist Party in my hometown asked me to write a paper about "smart cities". That paper should be used to define her program for the election process regarding this issue.

Due to this commission, I begun reviewing papers, publications and web sites about that matter, including that of the curent smart project of my town, of course. As a consequence, I soon got to a first conclussion: technology was generally being claimed to be "the" way to make cities to be smarter. I thought that this one was a rather reductionist point of view, as cities are very complex human organisations, and an only techy solution wouldn't ever be the answer.

By that time, I received information about the launching of a Coursera class on Techni Cities, held by Ohio State University, and, within its pre-readings, I found a very inspirational paper written by Gordon Falconer and Shane Mitchell, from Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG), and entitled: "Smart City Framework: A Systematic Process for Enabling Smart+Connected Communities". This paper put me into the way to a new perspective on smart cities and on their planning and designing processes.

From that moment on, I begun thinking of "Intelligent Cities" instead of  "Smart Cities", which I consider to be a more restrictive concept. In consequence, I started a search on the web, whether someone before me (as I presumed) had already come to similar conclusions. This way, I found the site of the Intelligent Community Forum, where I discovered a defintion for "Intelligent Communities" that did fit better whith my thoughts: "an Intelligent Community is the one which have – whether through crisis or foresight – come to understand the enormous challenges of the Broadband Economy, and have taken conscious steps to create an economy capable of prospering in it.” Nevertheles, even being wider in concept, this definition is still biased: even when it doesn't rely exclusively in technology, it is purely economic based. So, still not enough.

Some after, I knew about the publication of the Spanish National Plan for Intelligent Cities. When I reviewed its contents, I found a new definition which, moreover being more comprehensive, did also talk about "intelligent cities". So, accordingly to this definition, an intelligent city would be "the holistic vision of a city that applies ICT to improve the quality of live and accessibility of their inhabitants and assures a permanently improving economical, social and environmental sustainable development. An Intelligent City allows the interaction of citizens in a multidisciplinar way and gets adapted, in real time, to their needs, in an efficient way regarding both costs and quality, offering open data, citizen (conceived as individuals) oriented solutions and services, to solve the negative effects of city growing, within both public and private sectors, through the innovative integration of infrastructures and intelligent managing systems." Great, isn't it?

So, finally, Intelligent Cities are far beyond that techy-centered idea which is generally applied to Smart Cities and they rely on a more holistic and governance-focused conception.

When I wrote my final project for Technicity class, I did take this concept into mind. Here you can access the resulting paper:

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