When I first thought about what the “cities” of “smarter cities” might mean I fell into the trap of thinking about local government and the related connotations. But I suspected that was just a little short-sighted.
So, I decided to think about what a city is from the perspective of a citizen, and of someone who uses a city. What is a city to me? For me, it’s the place I live, whether I own, rent or something else. It’s the place where I pay my council tax so that it’s kept clean and tidy, so that my bins are collected and the city council can work towards sustainability by implementing recycling, and so that I get a continued water supply to my property. So that parks are looked after and safe places to be. Which leads me on: the city is the place where I want to be safe (having been mugged once I can assure you it’s no fun), where I might need to be treated for an illness, and may need to receive care in my home too.
I need to be able to travel around the city (let’s avoid a debate about Edinburgh trams shall we?), and ideally find the fastest, and least taxing route to where I need to be.
The city is a place full of buildings. If it wasn’t it wouldn’t be a city. Some of those buildings are schools – and thus a city is also where I am educated – and some are stadiums, which are also places with their own special safety requirements. It’s a place that provides entertainment and hospitality, not just to its citizens but to city users.
The city is a place with finite resources which need to be used with effectiveness and efficiency.
But not one, sole person is in charge of all of the requirements of a city. Nor in charge of all the resources. And many different parties impose rules and regulations, on citizens and on those that supply their needs.
So, making cities smarter is quite a challenge.