The term Smart Cities is becoming a popular term and one which reflects the use of smart technologies in urban design or new and existing cities. This term will likely help to shape the future in many major cities around the world. Many aspects of city life are becoming networked and the way in which we, as individuals, interact with the environment and the local environment interacts with us is being affected by products such as smart phones and other technologies. Everything, from control of the resources, the transportation system and crowd control are being influenced by the ability to collate and interpret data, as well as to use data for predictive reasons. In terms of wayfinding, smart technologies are already having a big impact on the way in which we move and get between places. Airports, in the future, are one example certainly of where we can expect to see a big change in the way in which we navigate and experience movement through these hubs.
This is not a concept I expect to become popular in all cities globally, but many trials of running a Smart City are already taking place and the impact upon wayfinding and how we navigate urban areas could be significant. These cities though, are designed in essence to be self-sustainable low energy locations, which produce low carbon emissions. Sustainable technologies and the recyclable energy are central to these projects. You may also hear terms such as “Digital City or “Sustainable city” used to explain similarly planned future cities.
Exactly what a smart city is, is debated amongst some, with some varying definitions. The approach to how a smart city should be designed is also debated, with some professionals wanting a top down approach to the design of these cities and with other people wanting a bottom up approach. In other words. A top down approach would, for example, mean the areas, buildings, transport systems, roads and so on are managed and controlled by a central base such as for the power and energy resources, the navigation controls and so on. A bottom up approach, on the other hand, would mean that society and people in the urban area would be more influential in the design of these urban areas. The use of smart phone technologies, for example, which are managed and used by individuals, would be more important in a bottom up approach. There are pros and cons of both approaches and they are continually being debated. The idea of a top down approach certainly would mean that we would be more controlled than ever before but, at the same time, resources could be potentially better managed.
This quite stunning project is one which is leading the way in which we understand smart cities and, in effect, this is a living experiment.
Masdar City aims to be a city which is totally self-sustainable in terms of energy. Some of the key features are:
Another example being Songdo in South Korea. Roughly £25 Billion pounds has been spent developing this 1500 acre site as a futuristic city, a city which is based roughly 25 miles from the South Korean capital Seoul. The start to such a location is for technological companies interested in investing and the local government to combine forces, to build up a plan for the development of elements of a smart city, unless of course one can develop the area completely anew as has happened in Songdo. Many cities worldwide though, will understandably want to gradually develop their existing infrastructure in a more gradual process. What is smart about Songdo you might be asking at this point? For those of you who have visited Songdo as I have, you will perhaps agree that the city is not the most aesthetically pleasing and the location close to Incheon Airport is certainly not the most preferred location for most of us who get to live in Korea (I was there for 2 years living in Gangam in Seoul). The 1500 acres of land needed to build this city was taken from the sea, so I am not sure how smart this is?! More than four hundred buildings wil be built, including what will be Korea’s tallest skyscraper so, once again, I am left wondering to be honest, if this is smart design or simply further destruction of the environment, in effect.
An organisation named uLife Solutions and Incheon-City are said to manage the city. Exactly what they do and what makes this project smart per se, is not completely clear at this point. A certain area of green space is part of the project but then, numerous larger buildings have been developed in this area.
Whether you believe in a top down or bottom up approach to smart city development, there are many clear examples of wayfinding already being affected (both positively and negatively) from smart technologies. Any of you who have used the Citymapper app on your iPhone to help you navigate a city, or have used any of the city apps that we discussed recently will have benefited from smart technology use in an urban area.
The way in which we get from A to B, in a wayfinding context in a smart city, will develop in a number of ways: