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By Peter Auhl
Cities and organisations around the world are investing in smart technologies in nearly all areas of infrastructure and service provision. From online payment systems and e-Planning services to IoT-based water management systems, smart lighting, waste management and air monitoring sensors, right through to autonomous vehicles and artificial intelligence, being a ‘Smart City’ is no longer an aspiration, it’s a necessity.
While the city and organisational benefits of embracing smart technologies are relatively obvious—improving efficiencies, reducing costs, increasing profit margins, stimulating investment attraction and boosting economies— it’s the benefits they bring to the community that really make a difference.
Smart cities enable smart people. Embedding intelligent, state-of-the-art technology across city functions and services has a direct, tangible impact on citizen lives—especially when services, infrastructure and goods are explicitly shaped with people in mind.
Take smart transport services for example. A city that employs intelligent traffic management systems such as car sharing, self-driving vehicles, people-movement sensors and smart parking Apps not only helps to reduce traffic and congestion on the roads but also saves people time and improves safety. There are also substantial environmental benefits by reducing resources, energy and carbon emissions.
Smart cities also attract more businesses which in turn creates more job opportunities for more people.
In a world where money is time and time is money, businesses are more inclined to set-up or relocate to areas that have smarter and more convenient infrastructure to reduce operating costs, improve profit margins and accelerate growth. Greater job options and access to more workplace skills and learning opportunities builds knowledge, skills and the intellect of the local community, allowing individuals to become more resilient, viable and financially independent.
The provision of big data networks and secure cloud-connectivity also opens a whole new world of information sharing and global citizen-collaboration. Ten Gigabit Adelaide—the 10Gbpsfibre-optic network that is being rolled out across the City of Adelaide—is just one example of how governments are stepping in to ensure businesses have access to high-data speeds and dedicated access to the cloud to cater for global collaboration and growth.
Furthermore, the cost savings that cities often derive from smart technologies—as well as the creation of new income streams allows for critical funds to be diverted to other areas. Much-needed community projects and services such as mental health, homelessness, public housing, education and public safety can all directly and indirectly benefit from a city embracing smarter practices. Again, it’s the people that benefit—improving community well-being, resilience and enabling more members of the community to live more fulfilled, engaged and enriched lives.
Visitors and tourists also benefit from a smarter city— digital way-finding, information kiosks, smart transport networks and public Wi-Fi systems all improve the overall visitor experience and provide access, convenience and knowledge to the tourism industry.
And then there are the environmental benefits. Reduction of energy and water consumption, less carbon emissions and improved waste management are just the tip of the “Smart City” sustainability iceberg. On-demand lighting, energy-saving windows and electrical systems, cameras and sensors that measure air quality, temperature and water level monitors and solar-powered waste bins are all helping cities, private practice and communities in general live more sustainably while improving overall living standards.
Being a smart city is more than just about reducing operation costs and improving government efficiencies; they enable collaboration, knowledge-sharing, higher-engagement, a reduced carbon-footprint and a better-quality of life and wellbeing for the people that live, do business and visit the area. Smart cities breed smart people…and that must be a good thing.