Smart city in context (1). Competitiveness (part 1): ICT companies & service providers

[Versión en castellano]

Currently, cities are the basis of power in the world, the generation and management center of economic activity and the main source of problems and solutions of all kinds. The world population living in cities has recently overcome the level of 50%, and this share will continue growing. Cities are the focus for all social, economical and environmental issues.

This growing attention to the cities has its parallel in the smart city concept. On 2012/08/19 a search for smart city in www.google.es, gave 401 million results. Doing the same search on 2012/11/24, when only three months had passed, gave 810 million results …!

You can get a general idea about what a Smart city is in Wikipedia . In any case, as we saw in a previous articlesmart city is an elastic concept that extends to virtually all areas of urban activity. It is not still a well-defined concept and everyone can use it according to his personal criteria. But there is a general agreement on that it deals with the use of information and communications technology (hereinafter ICT) to improve the performance, sustainability, and quality of life in cities.

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Smart city in context (0): an introduction

[Versión en castellano]

The smart city event of the year took place in Barcelona on November 13 to 15. Now, ​​it seems to me right to devote a whole series of posts on smart cities on this blog. It is a key issue because cities are world-class centers of life, economy and power, and they are currently growing at a rapid pace.

Barcelona, November 2012

The complexity of the cities is also within the smart city concept, which has not yet achieved a broad and formal consensus on its real meaning. For that reason, this remarkable invention of the blog is especially suited to discuss the issue by allowing a wide and open participation. My intention here, therefore, is to talk about smart cities in successive posts and from different points of view. I invite every Internet surfer coming here to make his/her own contributions, whether he/she agrees or not with what I explain here, or just if he/she wants to give new or interesting nuances. All contributions are welcome.

In a previous article I explained that, in my opinion, the greatest effect that  the concept of smart city brings is competitiveness. This is the basic idea I will use as a leitmotiv to structure the series of posts. These will express my specific and personal view , obviously supplemented or contrasted with the comments submitted to this blog. The list of posts I’m thinking about is purely indicative and will be updated here when convenient. Currently, the list is:

  1. The competitiveness well understood: How the different players (TIC companies, urban services, urban managers, citizens, …) understand the competitiveness inside the smart city concept. What do they want and what do they expect from this concept.
  2. The communication appeal of the concept: Why everyone is now talking about smart cities, why this concept generates rivers of ink and events worldwide.
  3. The technological and the urban approaches: What is the smart city products offering, and what is the demand for them.
  4. Financial issues: What mechanisms and funding sources exist to fund a smart city project. What is the role that citizens and entrepreneurs can play in the making of smart city projects.
  5. The integrated urban services platform: What’s inside this concept, what are its advantages and how it can be implemented according to its different alternatives.

All these posts will not have an academic style. On the contrary, they will explain my vision obtained from interaction with different players in the smart cities world, and from specific projects in which I participated. They will also explain the strategy I derived from their analysis, and all of it from a practical approach standpoint.

Once again I invite all those concerned to make their own contributions, criticisms and comments.

The long-term / short-term question

[Versión en castellano]

The lack of solutions to the mankind most serious challenges and problems is mainly due to the unbalance between the long-term and the short-term issues.

Thus, since the planetary challenges are long-term issues (environment, population growth, food, water, energy, social, political, economic, ethnic crisis, …), the mechanisms and interests presently driving the world are short-term ones (personal ambitions and motivations within the establishment, required fast return to money, political mandate duration, …).

Unfortunately, the councils of elders (essentially inspired by the experience of long-term issues) no longer apply. They are useful only if meeting the needs do not impact the availability of resources for future generations. They are useful only in the context of the Tao Te Ching assumptions, where Lao Tzu states:

The Tao is like a well of water
never extinguished despite heavy use.

Could anyone argue today that a heavy use will not extinguish a well?

And about the elders: they wake up every morning with a new gadget in the market for them even less understandable than the one they just met yesterday …

The beginning of the solution to planetary problems significantly relays then in the answer to this question: How can short-term incentives be applied to long-term sighted actions?

Any volunteer to respond?

Water management achievements & challenges in the smart city

[Versión en Castellano]

On November 14, I participated in the Smart Cities Expo & World Congress in Barcelona, ​​at the Environment plenary meeting, within the panel Challenges for a more sustainable city.

According to the session program, the topics were: Cities are major consumers of energy and natural resources. What is the step forward for city sustainability? What are the new ideas surrounding the reduction of emissions and resource consumption in cities? What is the future for waste and water management?

In summary, the key points I presented were: Read more of this post

Digital & old economies mixing can help cope with global challenges

[Versión en castellano]

There is a relatively common idea that many of the great cultural and socio-economic steps ahead have occurred as a result of mixing different human groups. Typical examples are the ones of ancient Greece and the most current USA. The opposite is also true, and the degenerative effect of consanguinity is very well-known.

Therefore, do not expect great achievements from the monotony that goes with the homogeneous mixture. Instead, the mixture of the different, at least, always generates unexpected effects. Some are completely monstrous and disastrous, and will die before birth. But others will be a real challenge to things as they are now, and will represent a real possibility to produce a breakthrough. Read more of this post