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  • Subject area(s): Marketing
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  • Published on: 14th September 2019
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Natasha Driver

In a rapidly urbanizing world, it is believed that cities pave the way towards sustainability and social well-being, but what does it mean for a city to be smart? The efficiency on a city working and being smart seems like it is dependent on how ubiquitous the technology is. However, does this mean that our world is better because of it? Habitat III's New Urban Agenda is a worldwide development plan that is mainly aspirational in hopes of making cities across the globe become

As the world embarks on a “Smart City Boom”, digital technology is being promoted as the answer to a multitude of urban challenges and wicked problems. How the technology is invented, evolves and diffuses, within and between cities, is not a straight process but demonstrates a wide range of approaches and results emblematic of the complexity and diversity of urban systems globally. Smart cities are often presented and investigated as a phenomenon pursued by advanced economies and driven by corporate tech giants. This issue of cities, cultures and societies will look beyond such perceptions to investigate the social nuances, human behaviors and cultural distinctions within the emerging smart city phenomenon. This special issue asks how quick innovations in smart cities will influence the design, planning and management of cities, expanding discussions beyond a singular technical emphasis to engage in the multi-dimensional challenge of building smarter cities to further social and environmental sustainability and foster more creative cities.

The goal of building a smart city is to improve quality of life by using urban informatics and technology to improve the efficiency of services and meet residents\' needs. ICT allows city officials to interact directly with the community and the city infrastructure and to monitor what is happening in the city, how the city is evolving, and how to enable a better quality of life. Through the use of sensors integrated with real-time monitoring systems, data are collected from citizens and devices – then processed and analyzed. The information and knowledge gathered are keys to tackling inefficiency. Information and communication technology is used to enhance quality, performance and interactivity of urban services, to reduce costs and resource consumption and to improve contact between citizens and government. Smart city applications are developed with the goal of improving the management of urban flows and allowing for real time responses to challenges. A smart city may therefore be more prepared to respond to challenges than one with a simple \'transactional\' relationship with its citizens. Yet, the term itself remains unclear to its specifics and therefore, open to many interpretations and subject. Half of all smart city objectives will include climate change, resilience and sustainability by 2020.

A shorthand description of many smart cities might be “generic, inflexible, elitist and controlling environments”. These serious limitations are never acknowledged in smart city marketing materials or high-level presentations. While we're being sold the flashy new-ness of Songdo's digital innovations, the bones of this city are actually incredibly old-fashioned. The traffic itself may be smart, but the highway design is fifty years old. For these cities, there's glaring missed opportunity to explore a true synergy between urban planning and IT. How could smart technologies positively influence the spatial characteristics of our living environment? That's the question everyone wants to see answered in a thoughtful, elegant way.

A truly smart city addresses not only every level of society—but also the parts of the city that defy definition. It leaves room for spontaneity, flexibility and grassroots initiatives. It welcomes diversity and embraces transparency rather than control. In the end, a city is only a reflection of its citizens and their collective will. What that says about New Songdo should be concerning, rather than inspiring. “In the West, ubiquitous computing is a controversial idea that raises privacy concerns and the specter of a surveillance society… But in Asia the concept is viewed as an opportunity to show off technological prowess and attract foreign investment” as the article “Korea's High Tech Utopia, Where Everything is Observed” puts it.

Planned cities often have trouble adapting to changing circumstances such as sudden influxes of people, aging populations, infrastructural upgrades. Because of their design, they don't have the variety and therefore the resilience or flexibility that historic cities can exploit when necessary. In a planned city, an authentic urban identity often takes decades to build up. Many would argue that planned cities from the 1960s and 1970s are just now starting to develop a kind of unique urban character. This is more worrying in a smart city because the technology is built into the fabric of the city from the ground up.

More dangerously, the planned towns and cities we now see coming up across Asia and Africa are almost exclusively for the wealthy. Unlike their socialist European forebears of the 20th Century, these developments are initiated, planned and built by the private sector, which means, simplistically: they are profit-driven. The altruistic ambitions of the previous century's architects and town planners have been abandoned for new tools that only serve those who can afford them. What would a smart city for the urban poor even look like? Truly poor people can't even afford the personal gadgets that smart cities take for granted (laptops, smart phones, reliable internet access). This exclusionary city-making exacerbates spatial segregation and leads to fragmented demographics. This in turn leads to higher crime rates and heightened social tensions. Especially in emerging economies, this seems like something planners might prefer to avoid rather than encourage.

Songdo International Business District is a $35 billion smart and sustainable city that is setting new benchmarks for urban development. Incheon U-City is responsible for the region's unrivaled “smart” infrastructure, which enables many of the city's solutions around transportation, safety and security, disaster management, facilities management, and citizen information services.

Incheon U-City Corporation develops and constructs U-City projects for public and private sectors in South Korea and internationally. The company exports urban infrastructure models. It also serves residents. The company was founded in 2012 and is based in Incheon, South Korea. u.Life Solutions provides many of the “smart” solutions and services directly to Songdo's citizens, in the areas of education, health and beauty, fitness, transportation, parking, and home automation. The diagram below shows the interconnectedness of the u.Life concept. All aspects of daily life are digitized and different units are able to share information with each other.

The purpose of the Smart Cities Mission is to drive economic growth and improve the quality of life of people by enabling local area development and harnessing technology, especially technology that leads to smart outcomes. Area- based development will transform existing areas including slums, into better planned ones, improving livability of the whole city. New areas, particularly green areas, will be developed around cities in order to accommodate the expanding population in urban areas. As Ted Cruz says in his TED Talk, the future of cities today depends less on buildings and, in fact, depends more on the fundamental reorganization of socioeconomic relations, that the best ideas in the shaping of the city in the future will not come from enclaves of economic power and abundance, but in fact from sectors of conflict and scarcity from which an urgent imagination can really inspire us to rethink urban growth today.

 Application of Smart Solutions will enable cities to use technology, information and data to improve infrastructure and services. Comprehensive development in this way will improve quality of life, create employment and enhance incomes for all, especially the poor and the disadvantaged, leading to inclusive cities. Smart Cities are modern and interesting. But they are much more than that. They are the promise to convert cities into intelligent and efficient ones. Cities that “think” and improve our lives and make the world more sustainable.

According to \"Zero Emissions Cities ­ Action2020.Org\" the success of limiting climate change caused by greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions will depend on the commitment of cities, because by 2030, 5 billion people which is 70% of global population, will live in cities, causing 75% of total energy demand and 70% of global GHG emissions. By 2030 total electricity generation will increase by 60%, driven by population growth. Today 80% of the total energy supplied is based on fossil energy sources, causing the equivalent of 36-39 gigatonnes of CO2 emissions in a business-as-usual scenario by 2030. Potential GHG emissions from cities can be reduced by fully electrifying the consuming sectors in the city and implementing high-efficiency measures for mobility, buildings and industries which is a solution to the problem. Energy supply and demand can be optimized and harmonized through ICT solutions, and electricity supply transformed to zero-carbon with maximum efficiency for energy transmission and distribution.

ICT advancements have enabled new approaches, tools and mechanisms for improving the quality of urban life and enhance the prospects of cities (and countries) around the world. Governments and partners have been exploring how best to harness the potential of ICTs not only to increase the efficiencies of city operations, but to advance sustainable urban development overall. There is an increasing role of ICTs in networked urbanization, and ICTs have ushered significant and irrevocable changes in the way people live, boosted social prosperity, and have significant impact on the growth and competitiveness of economies and cities. Smart cities involve the development of digital policies and strategies that are people-centered and tap into technological innovations to build the capacities of stakeholders (smart grids, smart government, smart citizenship, etc.). Key in smart city efforts is the use of ICTs to improve the quality of life of urban communities and build inclusive urban societies, thus efforts include the use of ICTs to enhance equitable access to urban services and opportunities, broaden participation particularly of the poor and marginalized in urban development processes, enable stakeholders' co-development of solutions, foster accountable and responsive local authorities, as well as increase efficiencies across sectors overall. There is growing recognition of ICTs' potential to achieve desired outcomes in urban development: high-quality public spaces, well-connected grids, well-designed density, increased resource efficiency, improved quality of life, growth  with  reduced  carbon  emissions,  and knowledge  creation  and management that address emerging needs and risks --- the contours of cities that are smart and sustainable. This Session will explore the innovative policies, approaches and strategies that could assist the effective implementation of the New Urban Agenda, with a focus on how a “smart city” advances the Agenda's goals of inclusion, sustainability and resilience.

ICTs in 21st Century urbanization enable digital platforms that support the creation of information and knowledge networks. These networks make aggregation of information and data possible, not only for the purpose of data analysis but also to enhance understanding of how cities function (e.g., resource consumption, service delivery, mobility patterns, etc.) as well as help inform policy and decision-making processes. The multiple infrastructure systems in cities are in fact a “system of systems,” or a network of systems that support interlocking operations or functions. They have become more integrated using ICTs, leading to the \"Internet of things\" and enabling integrated management of operations. Harnessing the potential of these networks for sustainable urbanization is a crucial feature of a smart city.12 There are various viewpoints on what a smart city is. The role of ICTs in networked urbanization and the dynamism of cities in the 21st century is becoming increasingly understood. ICTs have ushered significant and irrevocable changes in the way people live, boosted social prosperity, and had significant impact on the growth and competitiveness of economies and cities.10 There is also growing recognition of ICTs' potential to achieve desired outcomes in urban development: high-quality public spaces, well-connected grids, well-designed density, increased resource efficiency, improved quality of life, growth with reduced carbon emissions, and knowledge creation and management that address emerging needs and risks --- the contours of cities that are smart and sustainable.

The main challenge described in ‘Sustainable Districts and Built Environment' is to reduce energy use, environmental impact and carbon footprint, entail competitive industries for jobs and growth and at the same time ensure societal and social development and the well-being of citizens. The investment needed to improve energy efficiency, generate low carbon energy, modernize infrastructure and create high quality living environments is enormous. At the same time, cities have limited access to planned financial resources for systemic change, which requires the activation of private capital combined with public investment.

Currently the existing building stock plays a major role in energy consumption at 40% of EU final energy demand. This stresses the need for affordable and sustainable retrofit solutions at a large scale. However, since buildings last several decades, it is essential to find energy efficient, low carbon solutions for new buildings and districts as well. The major challenge in this area is the scaling up of new solutions and materials.

Recognizing every city has its different surroundings, it is essential to combine requirements: “To give stakeholders (industry, cities, operators...) tools needed to take appropriate systemic or individual decisions and facilitate scaling up solutions by enabling industries to provide solutions that are fit for purpose and at the same time come with reasonable pricing and quality. To provide the large scale launching ground needed for new concepts to test and unleash the market and to test and implement new financial products and models.”

The starting point of the actions is the building itself and the focus on using, combining and implementing on-the-market and near-to-market solutions. Not on reinventing the wheel, but combining and fine-tuning what is available to make it applicable at a large scale for existing as well as new buildings and districts. The focus however does not stop at the building – rather it addresses ‘place-making' with people, in communities within cities.

The White House Administration has even announced a new “Smart Cities” Initiative that will invest over $160 million in federal research and leverage more than 25 new technology collaborations to help local communities tackle key challenges such as reducing traffic congestion, fighting crime, fostering economic growth, managing the effects of a changing climate, and improving the delivery of city services. The new initiative is part of this Administration's overall commitment to target federal resources to meet local needs and support community-led solutions.

The Administration's Smart Cities Initiative will begin with a focus on key strategies:

Creating test beds for “Internet of Things” applications and developing new multi-sector collaborative models, collaborating with the civic tech movement and forging intercity collaborations, leveraging existing federal activity, and pursuing international collaboration.

India even started the India Smart Cities Challenge which is a competition for municipal leaders and their partners to promote economic opportunity in India, improve governance, and produce better results for residents. In 2015, 98 cities competed in the first round, and the 20 best proposals received funding from the Ministry of Urban Development. Bloomberg Philanthropies was the official Knowledge Partner to the Government of India on the Challenge and drew on its global network to help to design and deliver the first round of the competition.

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