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What it takes to realise smart cities

Nurdianah Md Nur | Aug. 2, 2016
Orange Business Services' Dr Helmut Reisinger shares with us the requirements and challenges of smart cities.

Are there any other challenges that affect the development of a smart city? How should we overcome all the above-mentioned challenges?
The smart cities concept - utilising mobile technology, sensors and actuators, and cloud computing to create a more sustainable future for city life - is already being well underway in Asia Pacific, and holds tremendous potential to contribute more in the coming years. However, falling municipal budgets and a lack of cooperation amongst various stakeholders, are posing hurdles to the rate of adoption of smart city technologies.

City managers need to spend money wisely. Cities which embrace smart technologies, big data and IoT are investing in a more efficient and sustainable future. This is an imperative for all of us. The OECD Environmental Outlook drives this home very clearly: by 2050, we will have a world economy four times larger than it was in 2012, with 80 per cent greater energy need. Cities are facing unprecedented growth and there needs to be a change in the way we manage land and energy use.

In this context, cities need to do more than implement individual smart initiatives. There needs to be concerted effort between the public and private sectors, as well as across industries, to cooperate and share information and best practices to improve the quality of urban life. Government policy, funding technological innovation and public engagement efforts will also play a big role in catalysing the adoption of IoT and the development of smart cities.

Governments need to take the lead in developing smart cities through strategic urban planning and partnerships with the private sector. However, most governments lack expertise or funds to develop, implement, and run smart cities. To overcome this, governments should look at working with major industry players who have strong existing capabilities in smart cities and continue to invest in IoT. Through such partnerships, governments can leverage the private sector's capabilities and economies of scale to fulfil their smart city objectives.

Singapore is exemplary in this respect. Recognising the impact of smart technology, the government released its Intelligent Nation 2015 masterplan in 2006, and subsequently the Smart Nation plan, outlining the city-state's ambitions and steps towards its goals. It has also set up the Smart Nation Programme Office to galvanise the smart city movement. The plan includes calls-to-action for the private sector, as well as encourages public participation in shaping Singapore's vision of becoming a smart city and nation.

Digital India is also a notable Asian smart city initiative in which Orange is proud to be supporting through several key projects. The Indian government has taken the lead in the bringing the country forward by digitally empowering its citizens, and is approaching the mission through actively partnering private industry players.

Another way governments can encourage the development of smart cities is through policy-making and providing relevant funding. With a clear direction for cities to take and the appropriate guidelines for working towards it, policy-making and funding could accelerate research into IoT in strategic directions. For example, India's Smart City Challenge spurred its states to submit bold proposals for their nominated cities. The plans had to include pan-city initiatives that made use of smart technology to touch the lives of many, or potentially all, of its citizens.

Lastly, but certainly not the least, smart technology was created to improve lives, and it would probably serve city officials well to rethink smart cities from the ground up. Smart city efforts need to engage the public. By having a good grasp of the challenges citizens face, as well as understanding their most pressing needs, municipal governments can then prioritise and adopt the right smart solutions to meet these needs.


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