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How will artificial intelligence power the cities of tomorrow?

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Published on 20 September 2021, in E&T, AJ Abdallah’s question of How will artificial intelligence power the cities of tomorrow?

How will artificial intelligence power the cities of tomorrow?

By AJ Abdallat, Beyond Limits

Achieving a decarbonised future will require efficiency-boosting measures that AI can help to identify and implement.

Artificial intelligence is taking the stage as smart cities become not just an idea for the future, but a present reality. Advanced technologies are at the forefront of this change, driving valuable strategies and optimising the industry across all operations. These technologies are quickly becoming the solution for fulfilling smart city and clean city initiatives, as well as net-zero commitments.

AI is becoming well integrated with the development of smart cities. A 2018 Gartner report forecast that AI would become a critical feature of 30 per cent of smart city applications by 2020, up from just 5 per cent a few years previously. Implementation of AI is rapidly being recognised as the not-so-secret ingredient helping major energy providers accomplish their lowest-carbon footprints yet, along with unparalleled sustainability and attractive profit margins.

What makes a city ‘smart’ is the collection and analysis of vast amounts of data across numerous sectors, from metropolitan development and utility allocation all the way down to manual functions like city services. Smart cities require the construction and maintenance of arrangements of sensors, equipment and other systems designed to create sustainability and efficiency.

Altering the strategy behind a city’s utilities operations is one of the major keys to making it smarter and more sustainable. AI solutions are already making significant strides where this is concerned. As the CEO of an AI company creating software for the utilities sector, the impact that advanced solutions are already having on the industry is something I’m very excited about.

One real-world example of AI powering smart city utilities is the Nvidia Metropolis platform, which uses intelligent video analytics to improve public services, logistics, and more. Nvidia describes it as being designed to: “create more sustainable cities, maintain infrastructure, and improve public services for residents and communities.” The company collects data from sensors and other IoT devices, city-wide, to provide insights that can lead to improvements in areas like disaster response, asset protection, supply forecasting and traffic management.

Another solution at the forefront of building smarter cities is a project led by Xcell Security House and Finance SA that aims to build the world’s first power plant guided by cognitive AI, driving utility development in West Africa. As the earliest implementation of an AI-powered plant from the ground up, it will employ advanced sensor-placement technology and techniques that embed knowledge and expertise into every part of the facility’s processes. Stakeholders will have streamlined access to facility-scale insights, creating a plant environment with greater risk mitigation as well as maximised efficiency and productivity.

These are just two of many emerging applications of AI in smart city development. When applying AI, the sector also stands to achieve greater cost and operational efficiencies in several key areas such as predictive maintenance, load forecasting/optimisation, grid reliability, energy theft prevention and renewable resource optimisation.

When discussing energy efficiency, many factors enter the picture, including the impact of environmental factors as commonplace as temperature and humidity levels. Historically, experienced human operators were best equipped to identify efficiency-boosting adjustments. Today, cognitive AI is making moves to encode that human knowledge and expertise across providers’ entire operations, delivering recommendations at a moment’s notice. Explainable AI creates the trust necessary for operators, engineers and stakeholders to solve acute issues quickly. The system’s shrewd situational awareness helps detect, foresee and solve problems, even when circumstances are in constant flux – scenarios as critical as an entire city’s water and power supply.

AI is already playing a principal role in supporting the move towards smarter cities by helping entire sectors get closer to efficiency and net-zero objectives. Achieving a decarbonised future will require more resourceful processes that boost efficiency and reduce waste. AI for utilities can elevate productivity, yielding more attention around resource consumption, and hastening the adoption of renewable, carbon-friendly strategies on a global scale.

According to a report from IDC, smart city technology spending across the globe reached $80 billion in 2016 and is expected to grow to $135 billion by 2021. It is imperative that companies, industries, and other entities looking to participate in this important stage of digital transformation seek out industrial-grade AI companies with software that provides holistic, organisation/sector/city-wide insights through sensor placement technology and data collection techniques.

Governments at every level, as well as public and private organisations, are facilitating technological implementation and digital transformation. Private and public partnerships have become a major mechanism by which cities can adopt technology that makes them smarter. The best course of action is to embrace AI that blends knowledge-based reasoning with advanced digitalisation techniques, helping stakeholders distinguish unanticipated scenarios and make tough choices.

Choosing the most dynamic form of AI to transform the utilities sector will contribute remarkably to the development of smart cities. Enhanced communication, strengthened collaboration, increased fuel savings and decreased waste will help companies – particularly in high-value industries – to increase their profits. Indelible process improvements, like streamlined operational capacities where all facilities function more efficiently in harmony, are the future of smart city technology.

AJ Abdallat is CEO of Beyond Limits.

Green Neighbourhoods as a Service

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Green Neighbourhoods as a Service

A Bankers without Boundaries made a proposed mechanism to address the challenge of scaling energy efficiency measures in the urban built environment. It is suggested in this article as a Green Neighbourhoods as a Service for all concerned a welcome step in the right direction.

The above image is for illustration and is of Climate-KIC.

Reducing net energy consumption in the built environment is one of the most significant and hardest problems for cities to solve to meet net zero carbon timelines. In our experience, typically, these emissions contribute 30-40% to a city’s total CO2 emissions. In this article we look at why it is so challenging and propose a mechanism to kickstart retrofit at scale.

A Challenging Problem

Reducing emissions in the built environment is an extremely complex problem with multiple components. Many of these complexities arise from an underlying assumption, in nearly all jurisdictions, that solving the problem is the responsibility of individual property owners. Multiple individual actors must make independent decisions leading to a fragmented response to the challenge.

Even ignoring this fragmentation, targeting individual property owners with economic incentives alone is failing anyway due to two interlinked problems

  1. The value of returns (energy savings) is not connected to the capital spend. Returns occur over many decades and a building owner must be confident that they will enjoy those benefits for at least 30 years to have a hope of creating a positive economic case. Most building owners cannot commit to owning the property over that period; therefore, the net present value of energy savings is undervalued by the capital spender relative to its true worth.
  2. Even assuming the building owner can commit to 30 years of ownership, the economics of delivering deep decarbonisation in a way that is attractive to citizens (Deep, Community Retrofit) has poor economic returns (negative IRR) even assuming a 30-year investment period.

Figure 1: Not all retrofit is created equal

If economic rationale alone is not enough, decision making and financing must balance competing goals – economics, decarbonisation, community benefits and social & health impact, which requires a broader viewpoint than an individual building owner.

As a result, current solutions, which are frequently designed to be adopted by property owners, are failing. This has led to the paralysis we see in the market with negligible levels of building level improvements which improve energy efficiency (“retrofit”) occurring, despite various subsidy schemes being offered and financing costs being at historically low levels for some time.

Most existing solutions start with a premise that since it is down to individual property owners to commission work on their own properties, it is also therefore assumed that the energy and maintenance savings benefit accrues to them too and that this should form the economic rationale to carry out the project.

Even after discounting other barriers to entry (complexity of deciding what work to commission, project managing multiple trades, applying for subsidies, the misalignment of landlord and tenant incentives in the rental sector) the economic returns are not high for ambitious retrofit and require the property owner to remain in the property for decades to realise them. Therefore, the net present value of these savings is not being leveraged to solve the problem in the most effective way.

The sheer scale of retrofit that is required to improve inefficient buildings is also often touted as a problem. The costs of an ambitious retrofit programme are huge and go well beyond the public purse. To compound the problem the energy savings that can be achieved are not high enough for traditional financing on its own. To achieve this scale public finance will need to be blended with private capital in some way to provide the level of finance needed to achieve the scale required. In addition, retail investment and citizen engagement need to play their part in the equation to increase visibility and feasibility.

An interlinking issue for many countries is that of regional inequalities. Governments, such as the UK, have made levelling up regional differences a key policy initiative. Existing retrofit plans stand to exacerbate this issue. In the UK for example average house prices in London are £661k, but only £200k in the North East and North West. Average loan to value ratio is 82%. Retrofit costs are broadly uniform across the country, so a deep retrofit at £40k would equate to 6% of property value or one third of average equity in London, but 20% of property value or 110% of equity in the North. Clearly a policy led strategy that forces retrofit debt onto house owners would be deeply regressive for the North.

Any scalable solution must address the fragmentation of the problem which arises from individual decision making, allowing more systemic decision making to happen, economies of scale to materialise and progress to finally be made. This requires a fundamentally different approach.

Significant Opportunity

There is also real opportunity in this space.

Figure 2: Opportunities

Green Neighbourhoods as a Service – A Proposed Solution

To address the mismatch between ownership of the capital spend and of the value of benefits, tackle the fragmentation issue, overcome barriers to entry, allow aggregation of projects and matching of different types of finance that will be needed, we propose a new more centralised model which we call Green Neighbourhoods as a Service (GNaaS).

GNaaS envisages the establishment of a central entity in a city or region which designs, commissions, manages and funds deep energy retrofit on a street-by-street scale with incremental community investments at no cost to the property owners, regardless of ownership and usage typology.

  • By centralising the design process, more systemic energy decisions are made, for example around local energy systems and integration with district heating.
  • By centralising procurement, greater economies of scale are realised, improving economics and providing a lead market to the supply chain creating an environment for investment.
  • By operating at a community scale, additional projects such as resilience building, co-working spaces and green infrastructure in the shared spaces can be implemented at lower marginal cost. This drives greater impact and citizen engagement, changing the process from a “retrofit programme” to a “neighbourhood greening and investment programme”.
  • By centralising funding, projects can be aggregated on a neighbourhood scale allowing access to completely different types of funding and crucially removing the requirement of indebtedness for individual property owners, which is a key barrier.

To fund the work, a mechanism is needed to attach the long-term energy and maintenance savings to the centralised funding source. The proposal is that this takes the form of a long term (30 year+) comfort and maintenance contract with the resident. The contract would be embedded into the property deeds so that it automatically novates to whoever lives in the property and does not follow the individual when they move away. Alternatively, the resident would be offered the option to contribute the funding for their property directly in which case they would receive the full benefits of reduced energy requirement going forward without any need to engage in the design, procurement and delivery process.

Figure 3: Operating Mechanism

This is not an ESCO model (1). The resident would retain their relationship with existing utility providers for any grid power that they require post retrofit. The significant reduction of energy use achieved through demand mitigation measures and maximising localised heat and electricity generation would create the financial space for the payment of the comfort and maintenance fee at no aggregate increase in cost to the resident.

Contracting all the energy and maintenance savings to the GNaaS organisation would maximise the potential for return-based finance in the funding model. Implementing governance structures that align the decision-making processes with the overall goals of the city could create a mechanism for social outcome goals to be included in contractual terms.

This mechanism could provide a theoretical lever to the public authority to leave part of the savings with the resident enabling the mechanism to become a powerful tool in tackling fuel poverty.

Figure 4: Funding Flow Through the OpCo / FinCo model

The Capital Stack That Will Be Needed

From the modelling work we have done with several cities, the internal rate of return (IRR) provided by the energy savings from this blended set of neighbourhood interventions is consistently negative, even assuming a 30-year payback period. But by considering a large enough layer of various non-repayable funding sources, or impact finance, we can move the IRR for the remaining funding requirement into positive territory. Furthermore, adding returns from other sources, e.g. health improvement, can further improve the pay-out profile.

The resulting model creates a potentially multi-billion, stable and low returning financial investment opportunity for sources of patient capital that also value a robust set of impact metrics such as decarbonisation, healthcare improvement, fuel poverty abatement, educational outcomes, air quality improvements or biodiversity gains. We would argue this could be a good fit for sources of capital such as pension funds and insurance companies, which are increasingly demanding products which offer impact related benefits in addition to a financial return, under pressure from underlying asset owners and regulators.

Further, it is a structure that can take in repayable, but zero or ultra-low coupon, finance from multilateral or development finance institutions seeking climate change impact and/or post-COVID recovery funding.

In addition, there is an opportunity to offer participation for local communities to invest through a community bond type structure allowing direct participation in the returns.

For the non-repayable layer of finance, various components will need to be combined.

  • Funnelling existing municipal budgets earmarked for improving energy efficiency of public owned properties into the mechanism
  • Repurposing existing subsidy schemes into the mechanism
  • Additional national/supranational grant funding schemes aimed at decarbonisation and/or post-covid recovery; the work is labour-intensive and community wealth building activities relating to asset maintenance and green infrastructure can be incorporated.
  • The potential to incorporate other outcome seeking pools of funding, for example allocation of healthcare budgets into what would become a preventative programme reducing future burden on the health care system, biodiversity improvement funding etc.
  • An option for building owners to fund the work themselves and have the occupant benefit from the energy savings. They still benefit from the centralised orchestration, better economics and broader impact.
  • Exploration of the potential to accredit such centralised and scaled retrofit programmes as sources of carbon credits for voluntary carbon offset schemes allowing corporates to achieve their own net zero targets by buying credits that directly improve the communities they operate in and their employees live in.

Figure 5: The proposed Capital Stack with illustrative figures

There are significant governance issues to solve in designing how this entity would operate and to align its actions with those of the public sector. We propose it would be a not-for-profit organisation using a standard return-based fund management fee structure to cover its own operating costs, with involvement from public sector officials in supervisory committees etc to ensure alignment.

We are not claiming that this proposal is yet a finalised solution; there are many complexities to work through (several which are being tackled in pilot projects planned in Milan and Zagreb). However, we are convinced that this concept has the potential to unlock the scaling of improved energy efficiency in the built environment in a meaningful way.

Next Steps

  • Integration with a mechanism to help scale beyond pilot phase, taking learnings from models like LABEEF in Latvia to enable an ecosystem of private sector contracting firms to take over the heavy lifting work of much of the OpCo envisaged above, thereby creating competition leaving the OpCo part of the retrofit company as a commissioning and refinancing engine for implementation firms.
  • Technical assistance funding is required to further develop this work, on the finance side, but also to develop the engagement process with citizens, scope out the legal challenges around contracting as well as integration with the supply chain
  • Pilots will need to be run in multiple cities to prove out the concept. We would envisage these covering 2-300 residential units at a total funding cost of €10-15m each. Pilots are in advanced stage of design in Milan and Zagreb) though engagement has begun in multiple cities across Europe including Copenhagen, Leuven, Vienna, Krakow and Edinburgh.
  • Funding providers, including private sector impact finance firms, development finance institutions and philanthropic outcome purchasers will need to engage who are willing to partner with cities to develop these structures so that they can grow to commercial scale.

1 ESCO – Energy Service Company – is a company that provides energy to customers and services to improve efficiency. An ESCO typically sits between the consumer and the utility providers.

Urban Experimentation May Help Develop Better Sustainable Policies

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Rain Jordan elaborates on how Urban Experimentation may help Develop Better Sustainable Policies as per a study that addresses the notion of urban sustainability observatories. This is all very well for the developed countries of the world but what about those that are developing. For instance, cities of the MENA region that have emerged against a backdrop of harsh environmental conditions, scarce natural resources, and limited arable land would nowadays be in great need of what is proposed here.
The above image for illustrative purpose is of The BMJ.

Study Shows How Urban Experimentation May Help Develop Better Sustainable Policies

In the twenty-first century, humanity is undergoing revolutionary transformations, including rapid urbanization, the advent of disruptive mobility technology services, and new data sources created and consumed by urban and mobility processes.

However, given the complex structure of urban systems and the multidimensional, disputed character of sustainability goals, these new mobility services’ environmental, social, and economic sustainability consequences remain unknown. 

Urban Sustainability Observatories

(Photo : Pexels)

Kelly Clifton, Kristin Tufte, and John MacArthur, all of Portland State University’s TREC, are co-authors of a Harvard Data Science Review paper published in May 2021. The feature, titled “Urban Sustainability Observatories: Leveraging Urban Experimentation for Sustainability Science and Policy,” outlines the criteria and research problems involved in developing successful policies to achieve cities’ sustainability goals.

The study addresses the notion of urban sustainability observatories, which use continual data gathering and analytic capabilities to leverage urban experimentation.

The researchers also go through the difficulties of constructing and maintaining these observatories and how the university, community, and industry collaborations may create effective observatories that act as essential drivers of research, technology transfer, and commercialization.

Decades Long Efforts

Since 1991, when an expert committee was established for that purpose, achieving urban sustainability has been one of the primary aims of European Union policy. Consequently, several research requests were held in this area during the fifth, sixth, and even seventh Framework Programmes.

According to the findings, indicators of urban sustainability were shown to be the most effective means of measuring urban sustainability and defining a set of sustainability targets.

Recent Sustainable Actions

(Photo : pexels)

In the last ten years, cities have grown at an unprecedented rate. As a result, more than half of the world’s population lives in cities, with the United States accounting for 80 percent.

By grouping creative, inventive, and educated individuals and companies, cities have grabbed more than 80% of global economic activity and provided millions of social mobility and economic success. However, clustering populations may exacerbate both excellent and bad factors, with many contemporary cities facing rising inequality, debility, and environmental deterioration.

In recent decades, urban sustainability concepts have driven development in urban and metropolitan regions to attain higher social, economic, and environmental sustainability standards.

Reducing Emissions

(Photo : Photo by Lukas Schulze/Getty Images)

The primary objectives are to reduce urban carbon footprints and greenhouse gas emissions by focusing on resource and energy use in developing, operating, and maintaining the built environment.

Practitioners and academics in the field of urban sustainability are constantly developing and implementing new approaches. Examining the range of innovative techniques that have been adopted in certain metropolitan regions might give insight into whether and how these methods might be adapted and applied in other cities.

Modern Approaches

Using such new approaches and practices also necessitates recognizing that cities exist within the planet’s finite resources; hence, attaining urban sustainability necessitates recognizing linkages among places and the consequences of actions.

The goals implicitly guided actual actions in energy conservation, energy efficiency, and renewable energy generation, which are all three components of 100 percent renewable energy generation.

Related Article: How to Live Sustainably Today? Just 5 Ways!

Developing Coherent AI Infrastructure For Smart Cities

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Annie Brown, Contributor AI writes in Forbes that developing Coherent AI Infrastructure for Smart Cities is a case in which the Emerging technology in artificial intelligence (AI) is transforming cities, making them smarter, faster, and predicting opportunities for improvement. So here is her write up.

The picture above is for illustration and is of SmartNations.

Developing Coherent AI Infrastructure For Smart Cities

Crowd in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. MATIAS MALKA VIA UNSPLASH

56.2% of the world’s population lives in cities. The issues that impact cities are felt everywhere. From commuting and congestion to economies and supply chains, increased efficiencies in urban areas are net positive for communities around the country, and the world. 

Emerging technology in artificial intelligence (AI) is transforming cities, making them smarter, faster, and predicting opportunities for improvement.

Myriad fresh-off-the-R&D stage AI tools proliferate in urban environments. Because of dense populations, and a concentration of equipment and machine based projects, AI’s ideal testing ground is a city. The truth is that AI is also most aptly applied in an urban environment.

Overhauling infrastructure is often associated with large capital expenditure and timelines spanning decades. Those barriers are being addressed through innovative solutions: AI and machine learning can upgrade the urban infrastructure fast, and at a fraction of the cost. 

AI-Powered Smart Transit to Get Cities Moving Again

Innovators in the space are leveraging innovative computer vision technology—aided by machine learning—to transform the urban transit infrastructure and deliver reliable, sustainable and equitable public transportation. For example, Hayden AI, based in Oakland, CA, has built the first autonomous traffic management platform with vision-based perception devices. 

These devices are mounted in a city fleet, such as transit buses, street sweepers, and garbage trucks. Each vehicle-mounted perception device is equipped with precision localization technology, enabling it to detect and map objects such as lane lines, traffic lights, street signs, fire hydrants, parking meters, and trees. This data then creates a “digital twin,” or a rich 3D virtual model of the city.

Vaibhav Ghadiok HAYDEN AI

According to Vaibhav Ghadiok, co-founder and VP of Engineering with Hayden AI, “The network of spatially aware perception devices collaborate to build a real-time 3D map of the city. These devices learn over time and from each other to provide data and insights that can be shared across city agencies. This can be used to make buses run on time by clearing bus lanes of parked vehicles or help with city planning through better parking and curbside management.“

Ghadiok leveraged his expertise in robotics, computer vision, and machine learning to architect the Hayden AI platform with a firm belief that efficient and improved access to transit systems lies at the heart of building sustainable cities.

One of Hayden AI’s first tests was on inner city traffic. Stop-and-start, people circling for parking, and blocked bus lanes cause traffic jams everyday in major cities. When bus lanes get blocked by motorists, it slows down buses, decreases ridership, and increases costs for the MTA. Ridding bus lanes of parked vehicles can positively impact millions of lives. 

It can also be used to identify parking meters, so cities can improve parking management. In addition, it can be used to alert drivers to available parking spaces nearby, alleviating the problem of driving around continuously looking for parking. The technology can even perform traffic pattern analyses to determine how many pedestrians are walking across an intersection at certain times of the day.In the future, these systems could be used to schedule curb space, enabling, say, a delivery truck to park in a typically restricted area for 15 minutes to drop off packages.

Take asset management, as an example. If a city wants to know when to trim a tree, data can be provided to assess the need for maintenance. How many fire hydrants are there and are they accessible?

Achieving this with fixed cameras is impractical given the steep cost of installation that can exceed $100k, time required to install, coordination of multiple civic agencies overcoming red tape and multiple rounds of approval. Ghadiok commented, “Mobile perception systems can be easily installed and are not only more cost-effective but accomplish more with fewer devices.” He further added, “An advantage of being a non-safety critical device is that we can rapidly iterate and deploy state-of-the-art algorithms to a street near you.”

The possibilities for what perception systems can convey, and the strategic decisions that can be made, are virtually endless. Social responses to these proposed improvements have been countered by concerns about privacy and regulations. That, too, is being proactively addressed by the global community of innovators.

New Paths for Politics and Society

AI unlocks the capacity for data to be used in transformational ways, but it still requires guidelines. A growing body of AI specialists see the powerful potential of AI to play a role in both politics and society, if the right standards are in place.

It’s called the AI World Society (AIWS) and aims to build “A Better World With AI.” Composed of leaders from around the world, this body is attracting leaders from technology, world governments, and innovators who recognize AI’s key role in building a better tomorrow. 

With representation at the UN, the G7 Summit, the AI International Accord Conference—and with a growing body of sponsored research and thought leadership—AIWS may provide much-needed guardrails to the ever-increasing supply of AI-powered tools, including smart cities.

Tuan Nguyen AIWS

AI has the potential to optimize life-saving, life-sustaining resources, including water, electricity, traffic, housing, and education. As the prevalence of AI tools increases, politicians and citizens alike must be empowered to understand and use technology.

Two initiatives by AIWS that have sparked worldwide interest are the AIWS Ecosystem and AIWS City. Co-founder Tuan Nguyen, an esteemed mathematician, explains the concept of the AIWS Ecosystem in this way: “Many things function with a team of systems. AI makes it possible to need and use only one. Enhanced applications make it possible for people to become innovators.”

Data scientists, technologists and other leaders are supporting a structure of models for facilitating a digital age. As an example of their activities, at the 2020 Riga Conference, leaders from AIWS relayed a new policy brief entitled “Social Contract for the Artificial Intelligence Age: Safety, Security, and Sustainability for the AI World.” 

AIWS has a growing presence in Paris, Rome, Riga, Vienna, Munich, and now further west into the United States. This body could make it possible for every person to have access to AI tools that make their lives better and easier. In fact, it is their stated mission to provide support to urban environments, but also to rural areas, reducing inequality and connecting people to centralized tools and information.

The City of the Future

Emergency services, community improvements, infrastructure, and the very roads that convey vital goods could all be enhanced by AI-fueled technologies. Some of the simplest ideas have the potential to go the furthest. Dedicated leaders are committed to using AI in safe, thoughtful, and tested ways. Their shared goal? To improve the quality of life for every person in every community around the world.

Annie Brown is the founder of Lips, a feminist technology organization at the forefront of the inclusive design movement, building products designed to unlock opportunities for previously underserved and intersectionally marginalized communities. Currently, Lips is building more inclusive Machine Learning and Contextual AI technologies that can be used across industries to improve the online experience of traditionally marginalized communities. 

Follow her on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out her websiteAnnie Brown

Can Sustainability Be The Answer To A Growing Smart City Backlash?

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Yahya Mohamed Mao, Founder & Editor-in-Chief at Scientya.com questions ‘can Sustainability be the Answer to a Growing Smart City Backlash?’ is answered in his write up below. The picture above is for illustration and is of FinExtra, publisher of this article.

Can Sustainability Be The Answer To A Growing Smart City Backlash?

2 August 2021

The constant and ubiquitous transfer of data from various sources to a single government entity has led to concerns that these sources could turn into electronic panoptics as governments use data-driven technologies to maximize effective surveillance of their citizens. Smart City technologies have been developed with practical applications to improve effective law enforcement, optimize transportation services, improve basic infrastructure, including the provision of local government services, and e-governance platforms. This will improve urban planning and allow governments to tailor their services to the local population.

In some cases technology companies are believed to enter into opaque partnerships with municipal authorities that have profited from the project at their expense by using public resources such as land and development rights. Such criticism is also drawn from data protection factors, since information flows function at the level of citizens and governments and undermine the concept of urban anonymity.

In several cases, lawmakers have passed or are considering legislation that would ban or restrict the construction of 5G cellular towers due to health concerns. While private and business industries consider 5G as a true milestone in today’s technology landscape, residents are largely suspicious of city governments and large technology companies in smart projects whose data track and collect over their everyday activities, not only compromising their privacy and security, but also selling the data without their consent. Fears of privacy intrusion in today’s digital age and rampant development that undermines public interest have exacerbated the erosion of trust between residents and municipalities, especially when private companies manage smart projects. 

Moreover, people are afraid that the government will use the data it collects not only for the big government, but also for the companies that sell it. The lack of transparency about what happens to the data, in my opinion, is multiplying the increase in activity in smart cities.

It seems evident that smart cities cannot harness the potential of new data, emerging information technologies and many other components that are essential to fulfill the promise of better services and a better quality of life. One of the most important components of smart cities is sustainability, and sustainability as currently understood is poorly understood.

The exclusion of Smart City definitions from essays on technological solutions in computer science, engineering, and mathematics is one limitation of this study. Further research into the contribution of smart cities to sustainable development is essential. In fact, research suggests that one of the main objectives of Smart City initiatives is to improve quality of life, but there is no definition that explains what this means and what the cost to society and the environment will be. When defining smart cities, it is not clear whether economic growth and improved quality of life are closely linked or whether they are presented as competing agendas. Future efforts to define smart cities should take into account the cause-effect relationship between improving the quality of life and the use of modern technologies and reflect on the dimensions of sustainability.

Economic and financial resources influence the ability of governments to develop and maintain smart cities. Smart cities should focus on social sustainability not only on the provision of services, but also on sustainable mechanisms of civic engagement (Webster and Leleux, 2019) and knowledge sharing with employees (Radulescu et al, 2020) to achieve social sustainability. In terms of the attractiveness of urban life, the introduction of digital technologies and sensors to collect new data will help document weather conditions, noise, temporary projects, pop-up installations, festivals, festivals, holidays, day and night time and impact on usage. This will help landscape architects and urban planners to make informed decisions about the development of public places so that they are pleasant, inclusive and attractive places. 

Payment structures in Smart Cities

According to The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) the following cities are the leading global smart cities:

  1. Singapore
  2. Dubai
  3. Oslo
  4. Copenhagen
  5. Boston
  6. Amsterdam
  7. New York
  8. London
  9. Barcelona
  10. Hong Kong

Interestingly, several of these locations also ranking high on Findexable’s index of 2020’s leading fintech hubs. As a consequence, digital payment architecture is expected to be similarly advanced.

A growing backlash?

The growing backlash against large technology companies, combined with the pandemic, has led to a waning enthusiasm for the term that dominates the discussion about the future of cities. Dropping the term “smart city” does not mean ignoring the technology’s potential for better cities

Conferences, marketplaces, and exhibitions have sprung up to showcase the latest gadgets that cities can buy to transform themselves. The challenges posed by smart cities have prompted metros of all sizes to embrace new technologies for the benefit of all, it seems clear, in order to join a growing global club of innovative communities. 

The link between smart cities and the extensive development of technologies makes it unsurprising that today’s tech companies are heavily involved in the building and growth process. The likes of Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook and Huawei have developed various ideas for smart cities. IoT devices are in need of the collection of information making the latter essential for running a smart city. In this manner, Amazon and Google’s venture in smart city activities should not come as a surprise. As we all know, they have been making our homes progressively filled with gadgets such as Alexa and Google Home for a long time. It was only a matter of time before the scale increased!

The concept of smart cities dates back to the 1970s, when Los Angeles created the first urban big data project. Amsterdam became the first smart city with the creation of a virtual digital city in 1994. When in 2011 the inaugural Smart City Expo World Congress was held in Barcelona, it has immediately become an annual event dedicated to smart cities’ development. By 2050, up to 70% of the world’s population is expected to live in cities and smart cities have been considered the ideal solution after decades of population growth and unplanned urban sprawl across the globe. Cities have a central role in strategic sustainable development. However, is smart also sustainable? Uncertainties and lack of trust resulting from the constant and ubiquitous transfer of data from various sources to a single government entity with tech giants believed to enter into opaque partnerships with municipal authorities have led to an increasing antipathy towards smart cities. People are afraid that the government will use the data it collects not only for the big government, but also for the companies that sell it. Could placing emphasis on sustainability be the answer to a growing smart city backlash? Lack of transparency is an important issue that must be actively discussed. We should stop presuming that “smart” is automatically “sustainable” and include sustainability as cornerstones of smart cities concept. Lack of transparency and people’s mistrust of how sensitive data is used accompanied by a poor understanding of sustainability and its relationship with increasing quality of life may contribute to the growing antipathy towards smart cities.