What makes a city “smart”? Perhaps it would be easier to consider what could make a city “dumb”:
How would you describe travelling everyday between buildings that haemorrhage warmth in winter while absorbing large amounts of environmental heat in summer, in modes of transport that swallow hefty amounts of energy, often at low speeds (or stationary) because of controlled and uncontrolled interactions with other vehicles?
How would you describe a locality where service delivery was either dictated by demand once it had passed a critical point, or by a rigid schedule that suited only the provider and routinely delivered services when there was little, or no actual demand?
Those scenarios are not just imaginary: Many of us live and work in inefficiently designed, and constructed, buildings that demand high energy inputs to both heat in winter and cool in summer. We travel independently between them, alone in inefficient vehicles, alongside many others, creating heavy traffic volumes, along roads with arbitrary traffic control systems. As a result, the average speeds we travel at can be little faster than walking pace. When we get home we put out our rubbish bins on their collection night, whether they are actually full or not.
When you think of it, the way we have been living in our urban environments has been pretty dumb. But it has been the less “dumb” of the available options.
Why? There are a number of reasons:
Firstly, often we have made major and minor, macro and micro, infrastructure decisions from a short-term perspective. These decisions generally assumed that external elements would remain broadly constant. Fuel would be inexpensive. Cities, though large, would remain of a size that affordable housing would be constructed in reasonable proximity to workplaces. That (male) breadwinners would go to work while (female) carers remained at home. And fifty years hence was the realm of science fiction!
Secondly, there was no realistic prospect of a method of collecting, processing and analysing all the information required for optimal resource allocation within a time frame necessary to execute decisions made from it.
But all that has changed!
Our urban centres have grown to the point that the need for infrastructure investment cannot be ignored. Many faces over an hour spent travelling between home and work each way, every day. Energy costs have increased to the point that investment in increasing efficiency has become financially compelling. And now, thanks to Fifth Generation (5G) Wi-Fi technology, it is no longer impractical to envisage the collection, conveyance and analysis of the vast volume of information that is needed to make the decisions required to optimally allocate resources and maximise service delivery, while minimising expense.
The Australian Federal Government has recognised the potential of such “smart” systems to make our cities more liveable, more prosperous and more sustainable. The government has framed a ‘smart cities agenda’ in its Smart Cities Plan. It has committed to adopting new tech that has the potential to revolutionise Australian urban planning and the manner in which urban areas function. Rather than being an expense, this should be regarded as an investment that would enhance economic growth.
“By taking advantage of the unprecedented pace of technological progress, governments and the community can make cities more prosperous and sustainable.
Real time data and smart technology will lead to better utilisation of infrastructure, clean energy and energy efficiency, improvements in services and better benchmarking of cities performance.” (Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet, Smart Cities Plan, 2016, p. 3)
Installing “smart” 5G infrastructure is much easier and far less expensive in “greenfield” situations than it is to retrofit the necessary paraphernalia into established environments. All C2 Capital greenfield developments are incorporating 5G “smart” tech capabilities. The 90,000 residents of our Rockbank North Town Centre will enjoy receiving the highest levels of service delivery at a minimal cost because of “smart” – optimal – resource utilisation.
No more wasted fuel waiting at unsynchronised traffic lights, no more unnecessary consumption of energy heating and cooling workplaces and homes, no more empty rubbish bin collection (or neglected overflowing bins!).
The truth is, with today’s awareness and IT capabilities not making our Cities “Smart” is really DUMB!