Urbanie & Urbanus

Issue 2021 Jul

Smart City?

Editor’s Note

The idea of a ‘smart city’ emerged in various ways during the twentieth century.

As a conurbation of clever people, Bletchley Park in the UK, the code-breaking capital of the Allied War efforts founded in 1941, is considered to be the first ‘smart city’. The growth of Silicon Valley during the 1970s in San Francisco, as a hub for computing start-ups born from the pioneering research work of nearby Stanford University, can be viewed in a similar way.

This growth in ICT in California in the 1970s also led to pioneering work in the state in the development of ‘smart’ city infrastructure networks, such as parking meters and street lights, programmed to gather data on function and usage that could be assessed and then fed back in to update the system to improve efficiency. Embedding a city’s infrastructure in this way with
networks that have the ability to think and learn can be argued is the clearest example of a ‘smart city’, but it wasn’t referred to in this way at that time. The smart city term infact grew in usage as cities around the world saw the benefit of the term from a place marketing perspective in creating new IT oriented business communities. In this way Smart Cities the world over were born, and a Google search today of ‘Smart Cities’ offers 739 million pages of related material in response.

However, at a human level, following a generation of exposure to the internet and all it is capable of, we have passed the awe phase and a degree of scepticism has arrived. With search engines and social media platforms ’smart’ enough to monitor and seek to influence thoughts and actions, the realisation that the access to knowledge and information is a two way street
begins to feel manipulative.

It is from this contested position that this issue seeks to offer a series of perspectives and critique on where smart city developments are heading. Contemporary thinking on smart cities is given in the aggregate, through a collection of papers relating to the particular components that will make our future cities smart. Including E-Vehicle parking, the usage of AI data in urban planning, how the augmented city and digital tools can help migrants settle and integrate, a smart approach to heritage and a framework for virtual co-urban design.

Neubert, H, 2019. Dialogue 33: Designing City for People, Gensler Research Institute, https://www.gensler.com/doc/dialogue33 (Accessed 13 June 2021)

Ferrer, J.R., 2017, Barcelona’s Smart City Vision: an opportunity for transformation, Journal of field actions: Field actions science reports, Issue 16, p70-75

Grand View Research, 2018, Smart Cities Market Size Worth $2.57 Trillion by 2025, CISION PRNewswire, https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/smart-cities-market-size-worth-257-trillionby-2025--cagr-184-grand-view-research-inc-675971763.html (Accessed 13 June 2021)