Rethinking Smart Cities From the Ground Up

modern-town-carouselThis should be evident: “For smart cities to reach their full potential, they need to focus on the citizens living in them, not just technology.” But it is not.

Smart cities emphasise technology—the internet of things, big data, fog computing—over the needs of people and the challenges they face living in cities. They have emphasised marketing and promotion at the expense of hard evidence and testing solutions out in the real world. As a result, so far, most “smart city ideas” have failed to deliver on their promise.

On a new report “Rethinking smart cities from the ground up”, Tom Saunders and Peter Baeck from Nesta, a UK’s innovation charity, explore how “smart governments” are now trying to put this right, to reap the full potential of new digital technologies while not repeating the mistakes of the past.

Their Key findings:

  • Many ‘top down’ smart city ideas have failed to deliver on their promise, combining high costs and low returns.
  • ‘Collaborative technologies’ offer cities another way to make smarter use of resources, smarter ways of collecting data and smarter ways to make decisions.
  • Collaborative technologies can also help citizens themselves shape the future of their cities.

And their five policy recommendations:

  • Set up a civic innovation lab to drive innovation in collaborative technologies.
  • Use open data and open platforms to mobilise collective knowledge.
  • Take human behaviour as seriously as technology.
  • Invest in smart people, not just smart technology.
  • Spread the potential of collaborative technologies to all parts of society.

It’s time to hit the streets with new ideas.

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