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Smart cities are about people

The alliance reckons that the way cities are designed makes it difficult for them to become “enlightened cities”

An enlightened city uses tech to nuture cultural, social and spiritual advancements
An enlightened city uses tech to nuture cultural, social and spiritual advancements

City leaders must exploit insight created by higher levels of data flow to improve the quality of life for citizens before they can claim to have developed a smart city, says the Global Future Cities Alliance (GFCA).


In a whitepaper, it claims the way cities are designed makes it difficult for smart cities to "extend their mission" to use technology to help nurture cultural, social, and spiritual advancements and become an "enlightened city".


The non-profit organisation, which focuses on the smart city industry, sets out that a smart city is about far more than “automating a few different functional areas”, but also centralising all of the data flows and using big data to provide capabilities that make the city truly smart.


The alliance aims to provide a communication and cooperation platform and its members include non-governmental organisations (NGOs), government agencies, research institutions, companies, investment and fund firms.


The whitepaper details five stages of a modern city:


Analogue cities: a traditional, unconnected city that does not contain a broadband communications infrastructure;


Wired cities: a city that has implemented an IT backbone, but has not exploited it fully, hence yet little in the way of automation or smartness;


Digital cities: a specific and well-defined urban area providing improved data-sharing and connection through information communications technology. Many departments are automating their systems with digital tools, but they have not begun to centralise data and use data collectively to make good decisions;


Smart cities: a city that uses a combination of technologies and connected utilities to pursue higher quality of life, performance, and sustainability. Only when city leaders leverage and exploit the insight created by higher levels of data flow, can they truly claim to have developed a smart city;


Enlightened cities: a smart city that extends its mission to using technology to help nurture cultural, social, and spiritual advancements.


The whitepaper contends that there are many analogue and wired cities today, but fewer digital cities and even fewer smart cities. It also believes the way that cities are being designed today will cause few to ever be able to reach an enlightened status.


It describes seven aspects of building an enlightened city:


Health and wellness: a centralised, lifetime, electronic health records system is a critical element of an enlightened city. It can identify health impact trends to improve the overall health and wellness of its residents. Besides, innovation and technology can help an enlightened city to improve health management and education, nourishment, air quality/noise pollution monitoring, and the access to quality work;


Education: in an enlightened city, virtual classrooms will become more common, while physical classroom environments will promote creativity and engagement. Aided by big data, machine learning, virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR), personal learning and immersive education will help students evolve from passive learning to active learning;


Sustainability: a component of an enlightened city is the objective of sustainability and conservation. Food waste prevention and recycling, water-saving, clean energy, green spaces and smart buildings, supported by smart technologies such as sensors and smart meters, are aimed to lead to greater progress and prosperity;


Talent development and attraction: Talent is a nourishment for an enlightened city that helps make the city flourish. Developing innovation incubation and industry partnerships, adopting technology early with high beam thinking, offering access to capital and investing in industry will foster innovation, development, and investment capital;


The curation of culture: Industry lands where people want to live. An enlightened city seeks to balance the use of technology with the reality that human beings need. For example, virtual reality can help promote history, arts and culture, while physical places including cultural centres, museums and galleries, and areas of tranquility also play key roles in the development of an enlightened city.


Home services and convenience: in an enlightened city, smart building capabilities extend to homes. High-speed connectivity allows for the use of new technologies like sensors, artificial intelligence and robotics that makes home convenient, well cared, and alerted of emergencies;


Public safety: Data offers the promise of the improved ability to monitor and control crime, respond to emergency situations, provide safety for emergency responders, and reach and act to the public safety needs of the community.


It concludes that the promise of an enlightened city is nothing less than “an enriched and satisfied citizenry”. The alliance said: “The enlightened cities will be built by those who had the foresight to seize and harness the power of technology and connection. Yet only if this foresight can have a meaningful impact on its citizens, will that enlightened city truly reach its full potential.”


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