SOCIETY | Jun 12, 2018

Data as infrastructures for Smart Cities

To what extent will Big Data help make cities smart?

“For decades the word infrastructure has been used to define roads, bridges, power lines, aqueducts and other things of this kind. But when we talk about Smart Cities, the word infrastructure defines many other things “.

This is how Kate Garman, Smart City Coordinator of the city of Seattle, writing in the Smart Cities & Utilities Report published recently by Black & Veatch, comments on the transformation of cities, identifying data as authentic infrastructures.

If it is true that, according to Bcc Research, the Smart City market will reach 775 billion dollars in 2021, with an annual growth rate of 18%, the Black & Veatch report finds several limitations to the transformation of cities into Smart Cities. Among these, the problem of copious collection of data not always used in an appropriate way, useful for Data Governance. Gartner estimates the number of intelligent and interconnected objects linked to development of the Smart City at around 9 billion worldwide. These objects are able to provide large amounts of information that cities should analyze and, above all, use to guide their choices. Unfortunately, this is something that is not always done according to the report.

What are the limitations to the spread of Smart Cities?

In addition to the inability to exploit available Big Data, the Black & Veatch report highlights other critical issues: the first is linked to poor perception of the importance of digital transformation of cities by citizens themselves, who too often judge it as “a passing fashion”.

Another critical issue is the lack of involvement in the design of “new cities” by important stakeholders, often completely cut off rather than called on to take on leadership roles. This element, that of the inclusion of the various stakeholders, is also identified by UN 2030 Agenda, whose innovative urban management models need political sensitivity, citizen involvement and a system approach.

Last but not least, the problem of costs behind which, according to the report, city administrators “hide”, saying they have no budget available. This problem is also reported by an IHS study and for which researchers identify in public-private partnerships an optimal way of obtaining financial resources.

What are the advantages of Smart Cities?

The Black & Veatch report highlights in particular those referring to “smart transportation”, namely that which allows people to move more efficiently: from electric vehicles, to car sharing, through urban transport solutions that use Big Data and AI. All with the aim of reducing energy consumption and urban traffic, improving the quality of life of people living in the city, saving and reducing environmental pollution, to name a few.

What is the recipe?

There have been many recipes studied and tested, several good reference practices and many moments of discussion on the subject. The report suggests the following ingredients for a successful Smart City: planning, understanding of needs, and collaboration with stakeholders aimed at building communities that can support change.

“Cities,” says the report, “can become smart and thus guarantee a more sustainable future”.