The world of new technologies was unknown to me until I moved to Barcelona. This was probably because I come from a small traditional town where everything is still done “the old fashioned way”. Imagine how I felt when I had to incorporate new technologies to my daily routine! I used to walk from place to place, make phone calls to get an appointment, try to find a free place in a parking for ages… And at that time we had not lived yet the technological boom that we are experiencing now.
Now all of this is already part of my daily life: electric cars, automatic trains, medical check-ups at a distance… And smart cities have already become a phenomenon! At first I thought that “smart” were the same as “eco-friendly” cities. However, after my research I realized that they are not necessarily the same. The concept of smart cities goes much further!
Okay, but… what are smart cities exactly?
Smart cities are those that combine multiple technological systems in order to improve people’s quality of life whilst reducing costs. According to IESE Cities in Motion, the are many factors that must be taken into consideration to determine if a city is smart or not. Among them are transport, urban planning and natural resources. Although there are several studies about smart cities (like the one by the Internet of Things Institute or the University of Technology in Vienna), most of them agree on which cities make the cut.
1. San Francisco (USA)
San Francisco is the cradle of America’s innovation sector thanks to the Silicon Valley, Hollywood’s equivalent in the world of technology. Not only that, San Francisco is the greenest city and the technological capital of North America. Its initiatives are focused on improving its transport system. The city has developed apps like SFPark, which shows which car parks have availability in real time; or Scoot, a new way to rent bikes to move around the city. Both have a common goal: to save time, money, and reduce carbon emissions.
If you’re interested in knowing more about San Francisco’s smart city project, take a look at this website.
2. London (United Kingdom)
If you have ever visited the English capital city, you will know that it suffers from high levels of traffic congestion. However, London knows how to turn this problem into an opportunity: recognition of license plates, smart car parks, traffic lights that prioritize public transport… It has everything that is necessary to be an accessible city!
In addition to these projects, London is the coordinator of Sharing Cities, a European program whose aim is to improve the quality of life through technological innovation. This program has carried out initiatives such as using the River Thames to heat homes; encouraging the use of electric bikes to move around; and creating a platform to exchange services between citizens.
Find more information about London’s smart city plan here.
3. Seoul (South Korea)
Citizens of Seoul incorporate the latest technologies in every aspect of city life, focusing on health issues. On the one hand, they have created a system of remote medical check-ups and consultations through smart devices. For almost 10 years now, they have been offering an emergency alert service for children, the elderly or disabled, who voluntarily carry a smart gadget.
However, for me the most impressive thing about Seoul is Songdo, an experimental city 100% dependent on technology. Imagine a “smart waste” system where everything is sucked directly from the kitchen to a processing center to be recycled. Well, here it is possible!
As a point of interest, Seoul also has a system of government where the citizens themselves are the ones who lead and solve problems. For this reason, the city achieved the finalist position at Smart Cities Awards 2016.
Singapore is, undoubtedly, one of the safest cities in the world. They have installed sensors and cameras in almost every single corner of the island so the Government can supervise everything: cleanliness of public spaces, crowds of people, movements of vehicles… Therefore authorities are able to know when people are smoking in forbidden areas or dumping trash from buildings.
One of the most innovative projects in this city is the Virtual Singapore platform, which can predict incidences ranging from the spread of infectious diseases to a possible explosion in a shopping center. At the moment, they have a digital map that allows you to see current images of levels of flooding or availability of parking spots.
You can read more about Singapore’s smart city project here.
5. Barcelona (Spain)
As Vilaweb mentions in this article, Barcelona is one of the most influential cities thanks to the diversity of projects it manages. Furthermore, it is a pioneer in ecological and transport innovation. For example, it has an orthogonal bus network that allows commuters to transfer no more than twice between any two points in the city; hybrid buses; smart car parks; and one of the most popular systems of public bicycle transport (Bicing). Recently, the “super-block” project was launched, which is a street configuration in favor of pedestrians and bike riders. Moreover, this city will have the longest automated metro line (driverless) in Europe, once it is finished.
In addition to this, Barcelona also hosts the Smart City Expo, one of the most important events about smart cities worldwide.
Visit Barcelona Ciutat Digital’s website to know more about this smart city project.