Smart Cities For Dummies
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Human destiny is tied to cities. If we humans are going to have a happy and prosperous future, we need new ideas, skilled talent, and informed leaders to build the cities of tomorrow. Everyone deserves a good quality of life. Smart cities can help make that happen. Find out how.

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6 Techniques for Falling in (or Back in) Love with Your City

Everyone who lives in a city has some form of a connection with it. Your feelings might range from apathy to love, not unlike the kind of relationship you can have with a person. These emotions are formed for so many reasons. You may love your city because it’s where you were born and you have deep roots in the community. Perhaps you moved to a city to take a dream job and discovered an exciting city culture. Other times, it may just be the sunshine or the snow, the beach or the hills. It’s probably a combination of things.

Cities want to be loved. This makes them attractive to talent and investment. Lovable cities are more prosperous cities.

However, it’s also quite possible that you’ve become discouraged and your city just isn’t doing it for you anymore. Again, any number of reasons can be the cause. You might disagree with local politics or have lost patience in the low quality of city services. You may feel that the city has become less friendly or clean.

Ask anyone and they’re sure to tell you how they feel about their city — good or bad.

People who care, who love their city, are more likely to invest in it, to participate in improving it, and to be engaged in all manner of city progress and life. This passion translates to a better quality of life. That’s what smarter and sustainable communities are all about.

If you’re turned off by your city, all is not lost. Here are a few suggestions for you to reconnect with your city — or to fall in love with it for the very first time.

  • Get lost: Whether you’ve lived in your city for 1 year or 20 years, it’s time to visit it as a tourist. You know that museum you pass every so often but have never visited? Mark out a time and go explore it. Open a map and find a section of the city you’ve never been to. Walk around. Look for art, interesting architecture, and historical landmarks. Find a coffee shop and stop in. Go to a new park. Discover the city like a visitor. You may be surprised and inspired.
  • Talk to strangers: This advice applies to adults only. The risk of starting up a conversation with a stranger is negligible, and it has a positive upside: You may make a new friend or even discover a job opportunity. Strangers can teach you something. A conversation may lead to an adventure. Random conversations can lead to new perspectives. They can remind you about all the good in the world, and even something wonderful about the city.
  • Create things: People decorate their cities. Lego street art and graffiti knitting can show up in the most surprising places. Maybe you’ve seen a mural on the side of a building, or how about that big blue bear in downtown Denver, Colorado? Sometimes for pay and often voluntary, art is created by all types of people for their communities. The beauty and curiosity of these street artifacts are both inspirational and engaging. You can enjoy them or even participate in creating them.
  • Play in the streets: It’s never too late to feel like a child again. Get out on the street and go on a treasure hunt. Play citywide games or any number of app-based smartphone street games, such as Ingress or Pokemon Go. You’ll discover surprises and learn about your city, and you might stumble into areas you knew nothing about.
  • Build experiments: The ability to create urban innovation has never been easier. By using city data or getting permission to deploy a sensor, you can produce value for the community, create a commercial opportunity, or just enjoy the process of innovation. Using the results of urban innovation experiments can also help to support a business case for a city change. This gets you engaged in city activities, which can lead to the satisfaction of enabling positive change in the community.
  • Try something new: You might enjoy your regular pizza restaurant, your local bar, and your friendly coffee shop. Continue to do that, but for every, say, fifth time, try a new place. Make a little effort and find a different kind of restaurant or an old, rundown bar. Every city has gems waiting to be discovered. If someone invites you to a new place and your inclination is to decline, default to yes. Open yourself up to it. You can find interesting things to do by visiting the notice boards in an old record or bookstore and by checking the event schedules at local universities and colleges. Many events are free or low cost and include lectures, performances, book launches, and workshops. You’ll meet new people, learn new things, and be exposed to another side of your city.

10 Ways to Measure Progress in Implementing a Smart City Strategy

Many cities around the world have made the decision to implement a smart city strategy. They’re using existing and new technologies as well as innovative processes to improve the quality of life for the people in their communities — an ambitious and often expensive undertaking. With this type of commitment, there’s an expectation that results will follow. City leaders need metrics to manage progress and to help their communities understand how the benefits of the smart city work are being realized.

Though specific metrics for local initiatives depend on each project and city, many are broad and generalized enough, for most cities to use. Overall, a performance indicator should measure some aspect of livability, workability, and sustainability. Many reputable institutions, such as the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), have created lists of high-level smart city metrics. Here’s a summary of ten that can be used for inspiration:

  • Percentage of city services available online: Offering access to city services via a website or a mobile app provides many benefits to both the city and the community. These benefits include 24/7 access from any device, greater accuracy relative to paper-based services, reduced resource needs, and possible automation.
  • Number of students with access to digital learning tools: Computer literacy and access to digital tools are requirements to thrive in the 21st century. Students must become tech-savvy in order to gain access to higher-paying career opportunities and to enable them to participate in an increasingly digital society.
  • Percentage of homes with smart energy meters: These connected meters record and display electricity use in real-time, enabling homeowners to alter their energy consumption behavior to lower the cost and environmental impact. The meters also enable the power provider to understand consumption and, therefore, better plan and manage energy. A similar set of metrics can be used for smart water meters.
  • Quantity of energy consumed by street lighting: Street lighting can consume up to 50 percent of the power needs of a city. Adopting energy efficient lighting and technology to power the lighting only when people or vehicles are in the area can reduce the cost and carbon emissions.
  • Percentage of city budget spent on smart city innovation: The degree to which funds are being committed to smart city projects, particularly when tracked over several years, can indicate the degree of commitment and investment being made in the future of the community. Be careful, though: spend doesn’t necessarily equate to results.
  • Percentage of the community with access to the Internet: Access to the information and services of the Internet is now largely considered a human right. It enables societal progress through broader access to information and education as well as to many of the tools required for innovation and opportunity.
  • Number of visits to the open data portal: Easy access to government data can enable more transparency, trust, better decision-making, and innovation. Additional metrics to capture can include tracking the most popular datasets and any API connections being made to the portal.
  • Percentage of city buildings that are accessible to people with disabilities: Over 15 percent of people in the world have a disability. Making buildings accessible to everyone creates greater societal inclusion. Smart cities must prioritize inclusion in every aspect of the community if quality of life is to be equitable.
  • Length of time to acquire a building permit: A core function of a city is to review and approve community applications for all manner of permits. Greater speed in issuing a permit can reduce requestor frustration, enable more rapid development, and increase economic indicators.
  • Percentage of community with easy access to public transportation: Public transportation enables more community mobility, reduces congestion, and is better for the environment. This metric can be calculated by the percentage of community members with access to some form of public transportation within a defined distance.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Dr. Jonathan Reichental is a multiple-award-winning technology and business leader whose career has spanned both the private and public sectors. He's been a senior software engineering manager, a director of technology innovation, and has served as chief information officer at both O'Reilly Media and the city of Palo Alto, California. He also creates online education for LinkedIn Learning and others.

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