Smart cities explained—the good and the bad

It’s no small feat. Building an advanced city is a huge project to take on but the challenges are no reason not to go ahead. The benefits are too great once smart cities are established.

smart citiesHowever, to best manage the change and the challenges it’s necessary to be prepared, right? We compiled a list of benefits and challenges you’re bound to face creating one of these smart cities. Be realistic but stay motivated. The future is here.

A challenge: Can everyone work together?

Unfortunately the human race isn’t known for its natural ability to work together. This project means you need an entire city working together:

  • Citizens
  • Government
  • Businesses
  • Service delivery departments

The challenge is to construct a plan that benefits everyone so people stay positive. Many entities’ functioning will be affected. You can’t make too many changes that benefit one but put another at a disadvantage or infringes on security matters.

It will take many discussions, but if major cities are already doing this, so can you.

An opportunity: Can you spark innovation?

We are far from seeing the final outcome of what technology can do for us. Already AI and machine learning can automate services such as traffic management and car park management. This wasn’t possible a few years ago so what is still to come?

Building a smart city doesn’t have to stop at incorporating existing tech and services the way other cities do. What can your local inventors, entrepreneurs and tech companies offer? The benefit of using local initiatives is that ideas will be motivated by local challenges. Your people know the biggest problems so they’ll know what needs fixing.

This is an excellent opportunity to involve citizens in the project. It should go hand in hand with plans to make it easy and cost effective to pursue innovations. Providing resources & funding prove to be excellent motivators.

A challenge: Do you have the budget?

It’s common knowledge that an advanced city has the potential to save money for everyone involved. However, it takes money to prepare the infrastructure before the savings can begin.

In many cases it’s more expensive to turn an established city into a smart city than simply building a smart city from the ground up. There are challenges to create an ideal infrastructure and replace old components with new technology.

You need to be realistic about who will benefit financially so you don’t create expectations that can’t be met. An historical building may not benefit from new energy saving features if it’s not eligible for planning permissions from the government.

These challenges can make people sceptical about giving funds to support the city’s changes.

It’s important to:

  • Remember savings will come over time
  • Make it easy for locals to benefit such as sharing gathered data with businesses who can use it

An opportunity: Let’s benefit everyone involved

It’s common knowledge that building smart cities is a great idea because the benefits aren’t limited to only one group. Citizens don’t have to feel they’re supporting an idea simply to help the government make more money while the people suffer. So remind everyone:

  • The features make daily functioning more advantageous.
  • The local government gets access to data that can help them perform tasks better.
  • Many processes will save people and government money.

The changes are mostly environmentally friendly so nature benefits too.

A challenge: Can policies change as quickly as technology?

You may be excited about using new infrastructures in your city but make sure you went through all the details with lawyers first. Here’s an example: A simple law such as where you’re allowed to place signage can prevent you from implementing a new feature such as smart parking signs.

For this not to turn into a frustration you should apply for necessary changes to policy at the earliest possible time. Otherwise your technology may be installed and ready for use but you won’t be able to tell the public how to utilize it yet.

An opportunity: Let’s save money

This sounds like the best reason to support this plan and luckily it applies to most role players. But do you understand all the ways your city can benefit?

Keep people motivated and don’t miss out on any cost saving feature.While many only think of smart cities as providing access to technology when people are out on the roads, it goes much further. You can transform a home or office into a smart building too:

  • More efficiency when heating only works when sensors activate it when people enter the room.
  • No wastage thanks to lights that only go on when a room is in use.

A challenge: Did you include everyone in the plan?

Smart cities are supposed to benefit everyone involved: Governments as well as citizens. But it won’t get a positive reception if some individuals feel left out.

While technology has the capacity to benefit everyone—farmers in the area, indigenous people and entrepreneurs alike—you need to consider how it will impact these unique groups before you start.

History has shown how industrial and technological advances benefit society, but also increase the divides between groups of people. Often it’s the marginalized groups who don’t experience the benefits. Your smart city plan should incorporate features that are relevant to everyone without infringing on someone’s right or making it difficult for them to participate.

An opportunity: Let’s make life easier

Here’s a practical example of how technology can affect someone’s entire day at the office if it’s situated in a Smart building where tech connects almost everything:

  • Enhanced security when CCTV cameras track movement
  • Automated adjustments of temperature, lights and music as people move across office space
  • A good tech infrastructure often leads to better online security

And let’s not forget less traffic congestion while driving to and from the office.

Studies show a citizen can save up to 125 hours each year by functioning in a smart city environment. That means people will be less rushed and more efficient.

Do you have enough reasons to start planning yet?

A final warning: Don’t let the challenges dampen excitement or slow you down. The correct way of looking at this is to view challenges as opportunities to improve your plan, rather than reasons not to launch it. We all know the most important part of any project is the planning phase. Now you know exactly what to prepare for.