9 Jul 18

Smart Cities, Smart Citizens

If technology and data are used purposefully, smart cities can increase the livability of a city, in terms of mobility, health and security, according to McKinsey Global Institute; however, whatever the means, the citizen is key.

The successful formula of a smart city consists of 3 steps: (1) collecting data, (2) interpreting and analysing data, and (3) implementing the information and insights of step 2 in the real world. 

The first two steps are addressed by tech companies, but the last step is where the bigger audience, the citizens, the companies and the cities, come in. At the end of the day, it is not the data that is going to make the city smarter, but the actions following from the analysis and interpretation of that data, which can be taken by public services, companies, and citizens. 

Enhancing the Flow

The collected data can provide public and corporate decision makers with important insights, which they can use to enhance their services and influence their citizens or employers. For example, real-time traffic information can urge drivers to adjust their route in case of accidents or traffic congestion, and hence, decrease commuting time. 

Other applications can help reducing air pollution, or stimulate energy savings by setting variable electricity prices. Specific mobility applications can enhance the traffic flow, boost the use of public transit or the use of ride hailing and even forgo private car ownership. Eventually, well used smart applications can address environmental, economic and social concerns of a modern city or company. 

The major win-win situation for cities, companies, and citizens, is the potential of smart-mobility applications to reduce commuting times by 15 to 20 percent on average; for example by reducing the time looking for an available parking spot. McKinsey states that 30% of all traffic congestion in cities is the result of drivers looking for parking space. 

Going the extra Smart

What's more, if the data is used in a two-way communication, allowing citizens and employees to participate in the outcome of the collected data, and measures, a city / company can become truly responsive. 
McKinsey states that a young population that not only accepts more digitisation, but also expects it, boosts the smartness of cities in terms of awareness, usage and satisfaction; which is seen more in Asian than in European cities. In today's corporate culture, the same can be seen for young employees, who are not only more aware of smart applications but are also expecting them.

The Smartest One 

However, picking the smartest one is difficult, as there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to smart cities, or smart companies. It all depends on the particular needs, the available resources, and means and the resultant practices on (1) collecting data, (2) analysing and interpreting data, and, most importantly, (3) the actions taken by companies and cities to stimulate and engage their employers and citizens to act accordingly upon the data, and eventually the changed behaviour of the latter. Smart cities/companies cannot go without smart citizens/employers.

Image: making a city smart requires more than the touch of a button.

Authored by: Fien Van den steen