smart cities

Major cities around the world are aiming to reinvent themselves as smart cities. Smart cities integrate new technology that has already been successful for individual households into largescale cities. The modern household has an abundance of people and appliances connected through the internet. The tech-world refers to this phenomenon as the Internet of Things (IoT). Smart cities will take advantage of new technology to become the utopias of sci-fi. On a laundry list of issues to tackle, homelessness stands as one of the most imposing. While some cities concede that the leap forward will not solve homelessness, they are optimistic about broaching benefits for the homeless.

Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona is looking to join other European Union cities in offering on-line diaries.  These semi-private journals will allow the homeless to account for their location and day-to-day activities. Most importantly, they will keep track of crucial information, like medical records, potentially saving lives in critical situations. This addresses a symptom of modern life that has only gotten worse over time. Authorities treat individuals without documentation as though they never existed, and therefore, these individuals cannot benefit fully from the modern information age.

People often take being in the system for granted. Medical records, employment history and interpersonal connections are integral pieces of information to share in modern life. The homeless in smart cities will no longer be invisible people.

Birmingham, England

Many different charity organizations address specific issues out of the multitude of problems that the smart cities face. A divide and conquer strategy is necessary but it benefits from a coordinated approach across groups. Change into Action, a partnership of the Birmingham City Council, the Mayor of the West Midlands and the West Midlands Combined Authority, unites all of the major charity organizations in Birmingham together.

 Fortunately, citizens now have an easy way to select exactly how charities will use their money to help the homeless in smart cities. This donation strategy targets two key psychological barriers for the average benefactor. The first is that people are overwhelmed when they face a multitude of problems they would like to try to remedy. People are more likely to donate now that they can specifically send £2 for a hot meal to someone in need. The second barrier that is broken is the identifiable victim effect. While potential donors may not know exactly who their money is going to, they are able to conceptualize the individual that will receive their help and are more likely to donate.

Jhansi, India

Energy-efficient housing is another technological advancement that smart cities are integrating into their new smart infrastructure. Wealthy people have been able to experience the monetary benefits of energy-efficient housing for some time now, as they can afford modern homes. Modern, energy-efficient homes use less energy and therefore cost less to live in. Jhansi, India has stated in its smart city initiative report that it aims to provide energy-efficient affordable housing for about 7,000 households. The homeless in smart cities will have the opportunity to afford to pay their utility bills and keep a roof over their heads. 

A variety of cities within different countries are all benefitting from embedding smart technology into their framework. The Chief Information Officer of Adelaide, South Australia Peter Auhl, said that the smart city planning phase is the most critical for success and that cities should purchase technology with a direct goal in mind. Saving the homeless from the neglect they experience is a goal that smart cities can achieve.

– Nicholas Pihralla
Photo: Pixabay

smart cities
Last year, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced his plans to revitalize Indian cities through the creation of 100 “Smart Cities” in India. More recently, Mr. Modi has announced that he will be giving annual federal grants of 15 million for the next five years to a list of 98 cities to help them become ‘smart.’

Modi, who has faced critique over the vague nature of his ‘smart city’ concept, has himself argued that “there is no universally accepted definition of a smart city.” Nevertheless, experts argue that the idea of a smart city generally refers to a city with criteria such as good roads, power, access to water, and livable homes–which many Indian cities currently fail to meet.

Mr. Modi’s Smart City project has also more specifically toyed with the idea of promoting mixed land use in area-based developments, creating walkable areas in cities, and creating a variety of clean and safe transport options.

According to Mr. Modi, the Indian Smart City initiative is only one among many urban development projects aimed at keeping up with the pace of economic and population growth within India. Indeed, India, which has a burgeoning population boom that will overtake China’s by 2028, also has the world’s third-largest growing economy, according to the World Bank.

India has also experienced an enormous influx in rural to urban migration in recent years, with more than 30% of India’s once mostly urban population now living in cities. This figure is also expected to rise, as many Indians move to urban areas in search of better job opportunities and diminished caste-based persecution.

In light of the demographic changes occurring in India, many experts have argued that Mr. Modi’s ‘Smart City’ initiative is an enlightened plan that will serve to bring relief to millions of Indians migrating to larger cities.

By focusing on issues in Indian cities–such as poor sanitation and access to water–the ‘Smart City’ initiative is thus not only a retroactive plan that serves to correct the poor state of many cities, but also a proactive plan, that takes into account the strain that a burgeoning urban population will pose to Indian cities in the future.

As Mr. Modi’s plan regarding his list of 98 Indian cities begins to be finalized, the Prime Minister also hopes that the somewhat paltry funds currently allocated to the project will be able to be bolstered by private donations.

Other government officials, such as Home Minister Rajnath Singh, have also proposed ways in which the ‘Smart City’ concept could be further improved. Mr. Singh, for instance, just recently proposed the idea that ‘Smart Cities’ could also be built as ‘Safe Cities’, which would require the installment of security equipment such as CCTV, aerial surveillance, and an increase in female cops.

Other officials have also begun to float ideas for how Indian cities can be better improved–making them overall smarter, safer, and more livable for the millions of Indians who currently live in sub-par urban conditions.

Ana Powell

Sources: BBC, Forbes, India Times, NY Times, Smart Cities Challenge
Photo: KadvaCorp