Smart is hot. Everyone wants to be a part of it. The consequence of this is that everything is called smart. Who can still see the forest for the trees? If you look back, you’ll notice that throughout history technology has played its part as a blower for cities and urban life. It’s more than just a trend like sustainability was in the nineties. And right now we enter a new era with ict-driven technology, to discover what it means for urban life.
The era of “the internet of things” is here. Everything and everyone is connected through mobile internet and ict. But what good is it, really? Actually, if we do it right, it’s very good. However, I can’t help but wonder: what is “good”? And what is really smart?
In my opinion smart is more than mere ict, internet and big data. But also more than sustainability and energy resources (the other current in smart city thinking). For me it’s holistic: a smart city is a city where the use of technology improves the life of its citizens: more attractive, more sustainable safer, cheaper, efficient… Technology is a means and not an end – a tricky pitfall in smart philosophy. It’s just about what people (can) do with it.
The various chances that new technology is offering us takes three different areas into account that interact with one another: technology, sustainability and new economics.
- Smart technology is contemporary technology that 1) uses sensors, 2) is connected to the internet and 3) generates data that is used to improve awareness and behavior. It’s a link between the life of urban people and the physical (built) city.
- Sustainability is a responsible use of energy (generating, storing and distributing) and a responsible use of sources (organic and an-organic), for both short term policy and future generations.
- New economics is a real economy between people and producers, so not the big financial systems built on fictitious money. Circular economy and letting go of growth-thinking (profit-thinking) is central in this philosophy, just as new business cases (or better: value cases).
Schematically these three areas interact and it only becomes smart when they influence each other in a positive way, to improve living, working and recreation in a city. I am pleading that all the three fields will be taken into account while implementing smart projects and initiatives. Only that is really smart, in my opinion.