Smart technologies are becoming more a part of our lives every single day. From smart phones to smart TVs the idea is becoming the norm for influencing how we live our day to day lives. So much so that in many parts of the world we’re even trying to make our cities ‘smart’. The concept of smart cities has taken a huge leap in recent years and that is mainly down to our access to new technologies that allow us to bring to life our ‘smart’ ideas. This still leaves the question what is ‘smart technology’ and this concept of a ‘smart city’. I aim to answer these questions and more within this blog.
Smart technology in its most basic form is technologies that are able to automatically adapt to best fit their surroundings. However, the technology has very much developed since its initial stage and is now used mainly for the assistance of humans. Which brings me on to my next topic, Smart Cities.
I questioned in my previous section, what are smart cities. The UK Governments background report on smart cities state that there is not a singular definition of a smart city and it’s best to see it as a process in which cities can become more ‘liveable’ (Smart Cities: Background Report, 2013). One of the simplest forms of smart city technology that everyone most likely will have seen at some point in their lives are the signs that show vacant spaces usually at the entrance of a car park. This simple use of sensors improves the liveability of an area and thus contributes to the process of becoming a smart city.
Smart Cities and Urban Design
So what does this mean for the Urban Designer? Riba in their article titled ‘Design with Data’ state that central governments have to date mainly used the data collected through smart city technologies for “operational purposes: to save money and improve services”, but have barely used the technology within planning and design (RIBA,2017). The article suggests four approaches that planners, urban designers and architects should take to make the most of smart city technologies.
- Using data to help designers meet user needs;
- Experimentation and modelling using data;
- Analysing data to improve local and national policy making and implementation;
- Using data to improve transparency to speed up development processes.
These approaches all look at the use of data to allow designers to specify more accurately the needs of the user and as such create better design. As much as it is the role of the designer and planner to use this data where possible it also down to local governments to facilitate the technology to allow this opportunity to enhance and improve our cities.
The Future of Smart Cities
So where do we go from here? A current topic of discussion that is related to the forward thinking of smart cities is the development of 5g technologies. Those that have seen the concept of 5g often perceive it just an improved version of that thing that allows our phones to connect to the internet. However, in the context of smart cities it is much more useful than that.
The technology will allow the creation of mm scale 3d models of anywhere within scope of the 5g satellites. Which for a designer is an exciting concept in itself, but that is just a glimpse of what the technology can do. The idea of 5g is to allow computers to automatically communicate between one another, improving their adaptability that has previously been mentioned as the definition of smart technology.
This means a number of things for designers. Firstly, the sheer amount of data that will be able to be collected will increase substantially which will lead to better design for people. An example of this is the collection of data on peoples shopping routes, and choice of shopping which will allow designers to better understand the ways in which people travel on this less than ordinary journey. Secondly, the technology will have huge implications on transport systems. Travel times and routes will be far more accurate as well as updates on issues with services and congestion in areas. The creations of jobs and work is the final point I am going to mention, although there are many others. It is predicted in America that the initial release of 5g technology will create as many as 3 million jobs in major cities, which is great news for an urban designer.
- Smart Cities: Background Report. (2013). [ebook] London. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/246019/bis-13-1209-smart-cities-background-paper-digital.pdf [Accessed 9 Jan. 2018].
- RIBA. (2017). Designing with data: Shaping our cities. [online] Available at: https://www.architecture.com/-/media/gathercontent/designing-with-data/additional-documents/designingwithdatashapingourfuturecitiespdf.pdf [Accessed 9 Jan. 2018].
- Accenture Strategy. (2017). Smart Cities, How 5g can help municipalities become vibrant smart cities. [online] Available at: https://www.ctia.org/docs/default-source/default-document-library/how-5g-can-help-municipalities-become-vibrant-smart-cities-accenture.pdf [Accessed 12 Jan. 2018].