30th January 2013
Work with the old, or in with the new?
On a slice of desert close to Abu Dhabi international airport, construction of ‘smart city’ Masdar is underway. Built ground up – in actual fact it’s raised high above a concrete base to maximize breeze exposure – it'll use the latest in tech and construction to become the world's first zero-carbon, zero-waste city.
Debate rolls on about the benefits of creating new ‘smart cities’ vs. cultivating old ones. Masdar offers a clean canvas, but speedy innovation might mean it's old hat by completion – not scheduled until 2025. Closer to home, Glasgow’s just discovered that it's receiving £24m to help it become one of the UK’s first smart cities. Enabling greater efficiency and sustainability – without need for relocation – retrofitting will ensure responsive planning shaped by existing needs and challenges; but centuries of established infrastructure underpin design and function.
Data is key. A one stop shop dashboard will monitor the city system, including traffic lights, CCTV, air quality and services – like hospital waiting times – to help make them smarter; a super simple smartphone app will also enable Glaswegians to report and monitor issues like pot holes or missing bin collections.
Cheeringly, all data will be publicly available to help other communities benefit. Speaking at the World Economic Forum last week, Sir Tim Berners-Lee stressed the importance of data sharing. During the same talk, he warned of a new divide, with few learning coding skills; he’ll be very pleased to hear yesterday’s fab news that Google's giving away 15,000 free Raspberry Pi microcomputers to schools!
While coding opportunities are hugely important, lots of people don't have the Basic Online Skills to enjoy exciting new infrastructure and services. It’s imperative that advances in our smart cities are coupled with support to help people and organisations use them.