Smart City strategies
Written by Ella Muja, Kamil Wojcik.
When thinking about smart cities, too much focus is often put on the technology instead of the people. Pursuing of certain goals like transport efficiency, better waste management or the improvement of social and economic quality can be daunting and, in the process, city’s citizens become numbers. When looking at numbers and statistics, it’s easy to forget that the effort should be made for the people. It is the people who live within the city that should benefit from the solutions in their everyday lives and other cities would be quicker to adapt to these improvements. Who cares if the daily paper writes about the great numbers of reduced carbon footprint emissions or a new high-tech lab, while inhabitants cannot feel any change in their life?
In this paper we will look into smart city solutions from around the world that we found interesting. We will look into our surroundings and reflect on possibilities how to improve quality of everyday life with the use of the technology. One of the biggest arguments against smart cities is that too much emphasis is put on the hardware. Unreachable goals and high budgets that often seek new technology instead of using existing technology to solve pressing problems.
“In Beijing residents can use the ‘I love Beijing’ app to report issues such as broken streetlights and potholes to the city government.” This is an example how the City of Tampere could utilize a vision of being more sustainable city, using existing technology. For example, the City could team up with Spark Sustainability and use their app to track citizens carbon footprint, instead of creating the whole new tool. And it could be taken even further, for instance starting conversations and bringing out more competitiveness among city citizens.
Another example: In Paris, ‘Madame Mayor, I have an idea’ is a crowdsourcing and participatory budgeting process that lets citizens propose and vote on ideas for projects in Paris. The process will allocate 500m Euros between 2014 and 2020.
Looking at Boulder, Colorado, city was selected second most liveable city in 2020 in Monocle’s 2020 small cities index. Julia Richman, the city’s chief innovation and technology officer said “to teach people to innovate in their own space, to be a leader in their own areas. It’s important how we share data across departments.” To help to develop better communication and brings transparency to current affairs and progress, cities’ governments and the leaders of the communities must ensure that vision and goals are clear, otherwise they can be easy completely misunderstood or distorted. Especially in a current time of misinformation. Involving people and leveling with the community will automatically clear out the intentions and could help to bring awareness and legitimacy to decisions and direction set by the leadership.
In 2021 open outdoor public spaces will play very important role in our lives due limited possibilities to travel outside of the country and possibly even within the borders. One idea that came to our minds is possible use of technology to monitor parks, swimming areas and outdoor gyms to help people choose their leisure destination accordingly with government restrictions. One could just go to the website and see how the situation looks like before going to the park for the picnic. We see an opportunity to avoid possible disappointment related overcrowded places in the summertime and increased safety.
Taking a closer look at our team company, Flip Solutions, there are simple actions we can take as a company to adapt to the smart city lifestyle and improve our carbon footprint. As mentioned above, living in a smart city means we have to contribute and provide to the city’s economy. Another aspect is feeling like we belong in the city without being covered up by new technological advances. For our company specifically, taking actions to becoming more efficient and sustainable will make a big difference in the long run, and allow us to make a contribution to Tampere.
One action we could take as a plan would be to create a challenge week, where each member of the team takes steps in their personal lives to support sustainability. For example, going vegan or vegetarian for a week, not using a car, and instead of shopping in fast fashion retailers, using secondhand stores or donating unused items from our homes. These simple and doable steps multiplied by 14 will make a difference. During the week we as a team could also log our experiences, help others, and discuss. As a team it is important to look out for each other, and by following up with the days in the week, it will push us further into the right direction. From the city’s perspective, a small business like Flip taking action improves their vision as a whole as well. Steps like these are affordable and efficient ways to make smarter choices and improve the city we live in.
Another suggestion, as mentioned earlier, would be to utilize the app Spark Sustainability within our team. The app offers various challenges and tasks to complete in day-to-day routines. We could even apply it to how we run the company and make decisions in the company. For example, when it comes down to making decisions, only taking and using what we really need for running our business. Even something as simple as deciding how many debit cards we need for the company makes a difference in the long run. Focusing more on online services that don’t require paper invoices or plastic cards has been a trend in smart cities, and more and more businesses should move in that direction.
Starting a company in a smart city also provides opportunity for innovation. “At the same time, Smart City strategies are a business opportunity for innovative and service businesses. The Smart City is a need for the future of society, but it is also an opportunity for economic development based on all the new products and services that appear.” (CTechno, n.d., p.3) This means that we have the opportunity to find our niche as a company and explore what the market is missing right now. At the same time, we should be asking ourselves what can we contribute to the city’s advancements? What skills can we utilize in our team to benefit the community? What will we learn in the process?
When developing a more advanced company, it doesn’t necessarily mean the first steps are to purchase high tech machines or software. Instead, it means that as a team we make decisions that work towards becoming more efficient, like comparing wants versus needs or connecting our business to the community’s needs. As far as something tangible goes, this could be creating surveys to hear feedback directly from customers, because during the pandemic time, we should not meet and discuss face to face. Another option would be to focus every one of our projects on Tampere’s goals of being a sustainable city by 2030. This could be connecting the projects to the goals or presenting the city with projects that align with their goals to emphasize our dedication to our community.
Possibilities for Tampere as well as for students in our opinion lay in technology we have on hand. Good example can be that despite all the sci-fi technology around like self-driving cars, hyper loops and ongoing space exploration the future of human mobility in the cities is bicycle. Invention over 100 years old is “the future”. To develop that further city could use smart city technology to improve the infrastructure and communication with citizens about problems and development.
Communication itself is an opportunity for the smart cities, while polarization is an increasing issue. We need more reliable news and better information flow. From the basic things like social media, to city screens in the bus stops can be utilize for that. Ensuring high level of information promotes better knowledge on important affairs and transparency. That could also help to stabilize the situation with pandemic.
Comparing Flip Solutions to its surroundings is the first step into becoming smarter. Our company has the strength to be able to contribute to our environment and community in a beneficial way by contacting the City, reaching out to our customers, and doing as much research as possible. As members of a community, it is also our job to make the right decisions because they impact our future, and create new learning opportunities as well.
Giourka, Paraskevi, Mark W. J. L. Sanders, Komninos Angelakoglou, Dionysis Pramangioulis, Nikos Nikolopoulos, Dimitrios Rakopoulos, Athanasios Tryferidis, and Dimitrios Tzovaras. ‘The Smart City Business Model Canvas—A Smart City Business Modeling Framework and Practical Tool’. Energies 12, no. 24 (January 2019): 4798. https://doi.org/10.3390/en12244798.
Saunders, Tom, and Peter Baeck. ‘RETHINKING SMART CITIES FROM THE GROUND UP’, n.d., 72.
From Smart City to smart business