The modern city is turning into a living, data-breathing, digitalized organism. It needs air, space to move and room to grow. For those in the know, this is nothing new.
For those who don’t know, Stefan Denig of Siemens, neatly summed it up; in just a few decades, he said, up to 70% of the world’s population will be living in major cities. Issues like sustainability, pollution, infrastructure and energy consumption will become the order of the day for most of us very soon.
Companies like Siemens are mobilizing to face this challenge. Its new sustainability center in London, named the Crystal, is raised to become a hotspot for attracting the brightest of minds in a number of industries. Their task: to think up a better urban future.
While technology, digital advances and access to data can help a lot, it is does not provide an answer in itself.
CO2 levels in London, Denig said, can be brought down by 44% with the technology available. But interestingly, the efforts to improve this trend will see just 3% of its investments coming from the city itself. Some 75%, in turn, will come from individuals and businesses. In order to improve inner city living, we the people will need to be involved.
“The social component of intelligent communities is tremendously important,” Bill Hutchinson, Executive Director of the Ernst & Young Center for Smart City Innovation, agreed.
For every city that moves into a greener, smarter direction, a new group of inhabitants moves with it.
Mobilizing creative talent in this way becomes paramount when working with smart cities. Architects like Eric Schuldenfrei of ESKYIU is already on the move, asking for “a wider palette to work with”. Smarter solutions like intelligent buildings and new materials can drastically improve the city’s inner beat, he added.
It’s a bottom-up approach that rightly addresses those who make up the very cells of the city, the people. Technology, data and new solutions is half the battle won, but as the panel agreed: smart cities will need smart minds.