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The rise of the intelligent city

23 July 2010
The rise of the intelligent city

By Molly Webb, Head of Smart Technologies, The Climate Group.

On June 30, we hosted a webinar on smart cities, with speakers from Arup (Stanley Yip) in China and Cisco(Gordon Falconer) in Singapore. Listen to the recording

Some key takeaways:

The next phase of urban development needs to be low carbon ‘Smart Connected Cities’. We have moved from single core cities built 100-200 years ago to very modern sprawling cities that are not smart or efficient. Now we need to move to low carbon smart connected cities that facilitate innovation for sustainability.

Smart solutions are a key driver of sustainable cities. Technology can enable 7.8 Gt of emissions savings in 2020 in the areas of smart transportation, smart logistics, smart grid and smart buildings. ICT can play a key role in all of these areas, which are brought together in cities.

Both policy makers and businesses agree that policy makers have to drive environmental initiatives. Business is ready to innovate and citizens are ready to respond (a new report suggests that 74% of citizens feel they can better manage their energy and water consumption when they have better information –“you can’t manage what you can’t measure”) but we still are at a stage where policy and financing needs to align behind the environmental objectives. Collaboration is key and public private partnerships can unlock success.

Energy savings and new jobs can be achieved in a smart and connected city. Within 20 years, a city of 5 million could see revenues up by $15bn, GDP up 9.5%, energy efficiency up 30% and 375,000 new jobs created.

Barriers to Smart Cities remain: institutional (there are many different bodies doing different things in each city); legislation (multiple layers of legislation has built up over hundreds years); regulatory authorities; insufficient governments resources; unclear business case (which is not always made clear by the green lobby); and finance issues (only a handful of financiers are prepared to put the debt up)

Success stories: Amsterdam and San Francisco. These cities are capturing information across transport and energy waste via an ‘urban ecomap’. Performance is broken down to districts and post codes so citizens can we what they are doing. Ecomap has provided a lot of information that citizens didn’t have before. A clear vision, cross-departmental and cross-sector partnerships along with political will made this possible.

Small scale pilot projects are not enough. Urbanisation rates are very high, especially in China (43% in 2006), which has led to private car ownership along with oil and electricity consumption increasing greatly. Therefore small scale pilot projects are not enough. Solutions are needed at greater speed and scale.

Low carbon cities must be replicable, scalable, market driven and enforceable. Innovation in the institutional framework of urban planning is required. 

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