Out of necessity and also due to some forward thinking governments are investing heavily in technology to cope with the burden of rapid urbanisation.
With the United Nations forecasting that 66% of the global population will be living in cities by 2050, governments are turning to smart technology to ease the strain. Most of this increase in urbanisation will occur in Asia and Africa.
Navigant Research estimates that cumulative global investment in smart city technologies is expected to total $174.4billion from 2014 to 2023.
So where is most of this investment occurring?According to Navigant areas where much of the demand is occurring include for smart grids, advanced water monitoring systems, transportation management systems, and energy efficient buildings.
Underpinned by information and communications technologies (ICT) that are deeply embedded in the fabric of old and new cities, these technologies have the potential to profoundly change the way cities operate and how people live and work in these environments, says Navigant.
“Smart city pilots around the world are demonstrating the benefits of technology innovation to cities,” says Eric Woods, research director with Navigant Research. “Now, city leaders must show how these technologies can address the day-to-day concerns of citizens, by developing new forms of engagement, using analytics to better understand actual needs, and benchmarking services to better demonstrate innovation-led improvements.”
One thing that is certain is that the development of these technologies is big business.
Traffic management systems are evolving with the collection and processing of real-time data and the improvement of digital infrastructure.
The development of suitable infrastructure away from reliance on traditional pipe networks is vital in developing true Intelligent Transport Systems. Information on traffic flows, speeds, volume and weather conditions have been available for some time in such systems, but now with the proliferation of mobile devices, networks through increased investment are keeping up with the amount of data available to be able to make real-time decisions.
So which cities in the world are considered smart?There appear to be many vying for the crown. In Europe, Copenhagen and Amsterdam are two cities regularly mentioned for their vision in planning and for their green credentials.
Copenhagen has established a reputation as the leading green city in the world and has stated its plans to be carbon neutral by 2025. It has set ambitious carbon reduction targets including for green buildings and increased transit access. The city is famous too for its cycling culture with about 40% of all trips being conducted by bike.
Amsterdam: Consistently rated one of Europe's smartest cities.[/caption]Amsterdam also has cycling rates like nowhere else in the world but just as importantly has participated in more than 40 smart city projects. These include projects ranging from smart parking to the development of home energy storage for integration with a smart grid.
Being so closely located to Silicon Valley it’s no surprise then that San Francisco rates so highly. It is a leader particularly in environmental issues and ranks consistently highly in categories such as energy, buildings, waste and air quality.
Smart city San Francisco. On the doorstep of Silicon Valley.[/caption]According to Nick Austin, founder and CEO of Divvy Parking, a smart technology parking solution, Australia needs to join the ranks of overseas cities for Australia to truly benefit from advances in technology to increase productivity and relieve pressures on our infrastructure.
Austin wrote in BRW, “If Australia is to tackle the infrastructure demands over the next years, we will need to seriously re-evaluate our existing processes for design, planning and development in our cities. This will require unparalleled cooperation and conversations between private companies, architects, urban planners and governments. Technology will play a big role in how these players are able to collect and share data to make these smart decisions and develop sustainable projects.
“For the smart cities of the future, Australia’s growing knowledge economy will mean that easy and instant access to information from any device is no longer a luxury, but a necessity. Increased connectivity will drive improvements in efficiencies in everything from tourism to business investment to transport and buildings and these considerations should form a big part of how key players across industries shape our cities over the next years.”