Are Smart Cities Really Smart?

Published by MBA Skool Team, Published on December 15, 2015

Before going on and on about the mentioned subject, a question must be answered. What is a smart city? A smart city is a city where modern technologies and advanced resources are used to uplift the standard of living with the society. The target is achieved with better resource management and adapting methods that are more in accordance with the environment.

A smart city is a city which has lower levels of pollution and other adverse effects on the biosphere and environment around it. It might sound something of similitude from science fiction of some perfect utopian future where robots serve as personal comfort assistants of the Human race, people travelling in flying cars or any such levitated contraptions and where we have trade relations with beings from another part of the Universe.

Image: pixabay

To the contrary of the previous sentence, smart cities are not a part of a distant utopian future, but are happening now and the World Wide Web of the Internet has been the greatest tool in achieving it. In fact there are examples of Smart cities in the past such as Bletchley Park, where Professor Alan Turing deciphered the infamous Nazi cipher Enigma machine during World War II. Alan Turing who is often called the father of modern computing, is only fitting that he too once lived in a smart city that changed the course of history and we know and live now.

Compared to the early 21st century, our way of living, at least in the Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities have changed radically. Many web enabled companies have come forward and radically changed various aspects of our lives, be it shopping, be it communicating with friends, be it deciding on a restaurant or any other thing. This concept of smart city has created a wave and motivated many innovators to come up with various product and services that has enabled the mass to act as one unit in shaping the society.

Smart cities mainly use Information technologies to achieve three main objectives. Firstly, to improve the basic public infrastructure with data analytics to support an all-round socio-economic and cultural development. Secondly, to increase the collective intelligence of the cities by engaging the masses in issues of local governance and other public affairs by use of open innovation and e-participation. Thirdly, a smart city uses IT to make the masses learn, adapt and innovate there by elevating the standards of the society and resulting in betterment of the society.

Smart cities need smart and intelligent consumers and to achieve that, we have to evolve towards a strong integration of Human Intelligence, Collective Intelligence and Artificial Intelligence within the city. The intelligence of a city is intrinsically comprised of four components, such as the nerves (digital communication networks), the brains (embedded intelligence), the sensory organs (various sensors and tags and other input sources, both organic and artificial in nature) and the knowledge and cognitive competence (the various software that interprets the input data and applies the necessary outputs and modifications to the system). This form of Intelligence in a smart city can be demonstrated in following ways. Orchestration Intelligence, where institutions and community based problem solving and execution are implemented. Empowerment Intelligence, where the city provides elevated and empowered experimental infrastructures to promote collective and individual innovations. Instrumentation Intelligence, where betterment is done through real time data collection and analysis and using that output to modify and upgrade the city infrastructures.

All the above mentioned are the characteristics of a smart city and they can only be implemented when everybody and everything are connected and part of a feedback loop system to ensure proper functioning and maintenance. And so far, Internet is the only tool at our disposal that has been developed and is able to do that in a very easy to implement way. Everyday newer startups are coming up with newer ways of simplifying our lives with web enabled tools and services and thus making it the biggest tool that has been enabled by our society with is slowly progressing towards that distant utopian dream of a smart city where we no longer destroy the environment in the name of progress and where mankind flourishes not while destroying everything in it’s path, but along with it.

This article has been authored by Dipsha Ghosh from International Management Institute New Delhi


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