What Makes a City “Smart?”

Rather than grow up and outwards, economic and community development has increasingly aimed to develop cities from within. The idea, therefore, that cities could be “smart” in light of their inanimateness is novel. However, when looking at economic development from the lens of resiliency, it makes sense that a city that is built and adapted upon the unique demands of its community should be reflected even beyond disaster preparedness.

Smart Cities embed multiple uses of information and communication technology mechanisms to better service its vision of receptive and sustainable urban development. By using technology to meet citizen’s needs and construct a more efficient and receptive community, information and community technology also, in turn, end up cutting down consumption and costs as they improve their municipalities.

As sensors, user interfaces, smart phones and meters provide the foundation for these smart cities, security and privacy concerns connoted with the suspicious implications that metadata unfortunately has render many reluctant to embrace this new application of the technology. Concerns over the overreach of surveillance and predictive policing that precipitate from the embrace of big data, while justified, are often far removed from the ideal and citizen-friendly vision of the Smart City.

Low cost interfaces, such as one promoted by hubcap.org, can provide customers with the most convenient and comfortable routes for customers. By adding just two minutes of waiting time for a cab on a trip, for instance, riders in Brooklyn, New York can combine to reduce the amount of congestion and total rides by 40%, additionally able to make an impact of up to a 90% of ride reductions by waiting five minutes.

The availability of data can hopefully inspire its users to change their behavior. Trash tags, inventions pioneered out of MIT’s Senseable City Lab, can project the distance and location of garbage in real time on a map, giving users an insight into the impact of their disposal. For public health, measuring biomes in raw sewage in real time can give officials, scientists, and researchers helpful information and knowledge helpful for understanding, preventing, and treating outbreaks.

Smart Cities require three components: effective governments in public safety, social programs, healthcare, and education, and quality infrastructure and inclusive growth. This includes infrastructure that provides energy, transportation, and water. Japanese and Indonesian companies are encouraged to engage in constructive cooperation through a carbon trade scheme, an alternative energy approach subsidized to take up Japanese technologies to increase energy efficiency. Jakarta, with strong political leadership and working towards capable public administration, is implementing a city monitoring system showing traffic conditions through “city feeds,” along with “Qlue,” a smart phone app receptive to customer complaints.

Smart cities are successful not in spite of, but because of citizen participation. For instance, a paradigm they usher is the new model of enabling the citizen scientist. Technology is increasingly becoming incredibly cheap, giving way to many new opportunities for new thinking and projects fit for testing. These technologies enable citizens to become more empowered than ever to participate in a different and more interactive kind of way. The solutions to unique urban problems and challenges ultimately rose from people at the grassroots coming together to leverage solutions of their own.

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