In the latest Bayfield Training Webinar, Sonia Martin-Gutierrez, in collaboration with Dr Eime Tobari and Richard Lambert present: The future of our cities, smart and sustainable cities. The webinar discussed the meaning of smart cities and how the latest digital technologies are being used in cities, including the importance of people-friendly cities and sustainable mobility as fundamental parts of the future of Smart Sustainable cities.

What is a smart city? Technology focused?

Richard begins by explaining and defining smart cities. In general, a smart city is an urban area that uses different types of electronic data collection sensors to supply information that is used to manage assets and resources efficiently. However, smart cities should not only be technology-focused— a truly smart city needs to provide for people and necessity. It is, therefore, important that smart cities have people at the centre of decision-making.

Smart cities’ features include integrated systems, management of real-time analysis and data, networked and measurement through centre networks. Richard describes the goals of smart cities as providing sustainable solutions, positively changing societal behvaiour, providing services accessible for everyone, and providing a better quality of life. A recently published study indicates that the smart cities market was valued at USD 624.81 billion in 2019 and is expected to reach a value of USD 1712.83 billion by 2025 at a CAGR of 18.30% over the forecast period 2020-2025. The increase in the adoption of green technology will drive the market in the forecast period.

New Smart City Pillar

In the next slide, Richard explains the seven key elements in creating a smart city. First, technology can be used to reduce energy use and improve the urban environment. For example, Richard describes how in London technology is being used to map out green spaces, highlight where more investment is needed to improve access to green spaces and encourage people to use urban green spaces. Second, smart mobility technology tools can enable people to use city transport systems more effectively to meet their needs. Specifically, smart mobility focuses on promoting low carbon and sustainable mobility options. For example, Helsinki aims to be carbon-free by 2025 and is using technology to provide smart systems that enable citizens to choose more sustainable transport options. Third, governance emphasizes collaboration and inclusive civic engagement. The critical element in improving inclusive decision-making includes the digitalization of government services and using technology to streamline and enhance greater civic engagement. Fifth, living and inclusion refer to improving quality of life and liveability. The sixth element is the economy, where smart city technology can be a driver of economic development. According to Richard, some research has shown that investment in smart cities can enhance potential increases in GDP by an estimated 21%. Finally, smart initiatives can be key to ensuring buildings and infrastructure improve energy efficiency, which is key to cities being able to meet their environment sustainable development goals. For example, in Tartu (Estonia), they renovate old Soviet-era buildings by connecting them with district heating systems powered by renewable energy. Moreover, they have installed smart home solutions to give individuals more power to monitor their energy usage. Finally, the safety and security of smart cities are essential. For example, increasing lighting can help de-escalate aggressive behaviour, improve the street atmosphere, and enhance walking and cycling routes.

Beyond Digital

Looking beyond digital. Richard emphasizes that with smart cities, people and equity must be at the centre of decision-making. Equity must be included as a goal to ensure that the most vulnerable groups of society are protected and also have their needs met. A second key area beyond digital is the impact of cities on the environment. Generally, cities produce 70% of global emissions. Therefore, cities need to focus on improving their sustainability and reducing their impact on the environment. As Richard explains, “one key solution is to focus more on people-focused sustainable transport and streets that are key to the future development of cities”. Sustainable transport and people-focused streets include mobility areas such as walking, cycling, e-mobility, and public transport.

Essential Elements of People Focused on Sustainable Transport

To conclude, Richard explains the essential elements of people-focused sustainable transport. The first is space and priority. Specifically, this relates to the physical space provided to people, including prioritising the lowest forms of carbon mobility (e.g. walking, cycling). The second element relates to inclusive decision-making, which promotes including communities in the decision-making process. Third, ensuring integrated and connected transport networks that are also multi-modal (i.e. flexible transport options). Multi-modal transport networks make it easy for people to use and connect mixed-land development and technology. Fourth, cities should (physical) accessible and (affordable) equitable. Finally, cities must be attractive and safe for people to want to use.