Are we becoming smarter?

March 25, 2015

The “smart cities” industry will account for approximately 400 billion dollars by 2020 therefore some cities and organizations are turning their attention towards how technology can improve the life of many.


While in everyday life “smart” can be defined in different ways, when it comes to cities, “smart” equals digitally equipped to answer the planet and citizens’ needs. A smart city uses energy efficiently and places the “general well-being” of its citizens beyond anything else. This includes investments and reorganization of public services, education, transport management, healthcare, energy and many other areas with the sole purpose of becoming more efficient and responding faster in the face of emergency. However, in order to have the proper beneficial impact it is important to work closely with citizens to co-create this environment.


It has been estimated that by 2020, the global market for smart cities systems for transport, energy, healthcare, water and waste will account for approximately 400 billion dollars. Other more inclusive studies, such as the report of Booz Allen on “Reinventing the City to Combat Climate Change” estimate that, in real terms, global investment in urban Information and Communication Technology and telecommunications will amount to over 30 trillion dollars, over the next 30 years.


However, as for any trending concept, the definition of “smart cities” is broad and multiple standards and recommendations exist. As a consequence, just a few administrations adventure in planning a smarter future for their cities, while others wait for the next cool movement to jump in.


The European Union’s agenda includes energy efficiency improvement by 20% in 2020 so they pay particular attention to the smart city concept, which will take them there.  One European example is the PLEEC project (Planning for Energy Efficient Cities) dealing with energy efficiency in six European, medium-sized cities (Eskilstuna, Jyväskylä, Santiago de Compostela, Stoke-on-Trent, Tartu and Turku). Another example where technology has been put at use for experimenting with the Internet of Things and improving citizens’ life is Santander, Spain. The city has advanced serious research on how technology contributes to becoming a smarter city. 



Denmark is leading the way when it comes to climate and citizens friendly countries.  Copenhagen was nominated second year in a row as the “greenest city in the world”, has plans of becoming CO2 neutral by 2025 and was recognized for the use of Big Data in improving the quality of life. No surprise that the Danish capital has attracted global recognition. Furthermore, Copenhagen is known for being the most livable city in the world, an area in which other cities have difficulties succeeding, despite their technological investments.


United Nations is another global institution actively investing in smart cities. UN’s Framework Convention for Climate launched Climate Smart Cities, a program which will deliver evidence based plans after working with 6 cities in United Kingdom and Kolkata, India. Furthermore, the Chinese Government has bold standards when it comes to new green buildings, in in partnership with the soon to be First Smart Nation Singapore, it invested tremendously in Sin-Singapore Guangzhou Knowledge City


With Singapore, Egypt, Rio de Janeiro and many other cities planning to become smarter in one or some aspects, the premises are optimistic, but the efforts are far from the all-embracing definition of a smart city and from us becoming a “smarter world”.


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