2016 has certainly been a year of accelerating pace with many smart solutions coming to market.
Cities for citizens
One key trend is the liveability of cities for citizens. Smart cities can’t just be test beds of technology, they must apply that technology to tackle citizens’ concerns and improve quality of life. We’ve seen some examples, including Bristol’s citizen sensing programme, which successfully combine working with local people to raise their own issues and then using smart innovations to tackle real problems that people face living in cities. Truly smart cities will be those which develop the technology at the end of a process to work with local people and openly listen to their voices.
More opportunities for dialogue between citizens and tech innovators working in smart cities could help. To enable this, further investment will need to be directed towards organisations with expertise in citizen participation to ensure this dialogue is appropriate.
Smart tech in search of a problem
The growth of IoT and robotics were major trends. However impressive the technology, there are examples where the technology seems to have been developed without a clearly defined need or problem to address. Growing cities across the globe face significant urban challenges such as air quality, waste, and fuel poverty. There are no shortage of challenges in need of positive solutions. Working with citizens to identify the challenges most important to them and co-developing a response will lead to relevant solutions that meet a genuine need, respond to citizens aspirations, create lasting change and ultimately improve quality of life.
New economic models
The circular economy represents a new economic model which drives value from products and materials at all stages of their lifecycle. Pressure on resources and an acceptance of the finite resources of our planet have prompted this development. The growth in prominence of the idea of circular economies is noticeable and beginning to filter out into mainstream thinking with some brands/companies using circular models now established as household names.
Fast prototyping and rapid learning
The importance of city strategies has been a growing focus. While long term planning is necessary, action is of equal important. Short term actions need to happen in parallel with long term planning in order for progress and change to be achieved. There is growing acceptance of the role of prototyping as a way to test ideas, ensuring that failure happens early (and cheaply) and informs strategy development.
How do you think smart cities should evolve to try out tech and address real issues?