EPFL (École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne) founded on 2014 a no-profit organization called IGLUS (Innovative Governance of Large Urban Systems). The latter has always had the goal to help the bigger cities in the world to better understand the strengths and the weaknesses of the governance of their infrastructures with respect to the dimensions efficiency, sustainability and resilience. In order to comprehend what they consist in and in order to delve into the basic concepts, #EnergyCuE recommend to attend one of the following online FREE courses: Management of Urban Infrastructures and Management of Smart Urban Infrastructures.
After those, the IGLUS program could allow the participants to apply for the Executive Master that the organization arranges every year: a priceless opportunity for the people who want to perfect – or feed – their urban knowledge and not just that.
Starting from this point, we decided to write several articles on the pillars of the concept of Smart City, beginning from opinions and ideas of some of the IGLUS participants.
The first guest is Rui Cao, and she will explain her idea of smartness in cities linked to the usage of ICTs.
What do you do exactly at the moment and why did you decide to attend IGLUS master programme?
I am a business consultant, currently work for an IT start-up company focuses on IT requirement of the national healthcare insurance system. Previously, I worked as a senior consultant in IBM global business service. I found urban issue interesting by its complexity and interdisciplinary while I was involved in a smart city project. I was motivated to learn more from books and online resources including the MOOCs by IGLUS. Ultimately, I realized that “smart city” has great potential to improve our society deeply, as long as we develop and deliver it in a thoughtful and holistic manner. Thus I attended the IGLUS master program to equip myself with systematic knowledge and insights on urban systems.
What makes a city “SMART” in your personal opinion?
The city itself is not consciousness. The human being is the only conscious creature that can be evaluated with the adjective “SMART”, or judge other things as “SMART” with humankind standard. Therefore, the city can only be “SMART” by people who make it so or think it so. By definition, smart means “intelligent; able to learn and think quickly”, and “showing good judgment”. In the context of cities, the ability to learn and think signifies the mechanism/ channel to get information about, as well as the ability to understand the urban eco-system, timely; showing good judgment is to react based on a holistic view of the past/present/ future and for the sake of all creatures within the ecosystem. In a narrow sense, smart city to me is people applying information technology to really understand our own habitat, and to preserve it well in the long run in order to create a positive, sustainable dynamic relationship with nature.
What do you think – according to your career – are the differences in the ICT sector between a “smart” and a “not-smart” metropolis?
The smart city is not yet a well-developed concept with mature standards. It’s still at its early stage. Infrastructure wise, a smart city differs from a not-smart city in following aspects:
- Bottom layer Infrastructure, especially cameras and sensors which can gather information timely and in detail;
- Data capability, including data storage and process capabilities, cloud computing, advanced algorithms, and big data;
- The richness of citizen level service applications, real-time bus schedule, and online public services.
Besides infrastructure, the more important part of a smart city is how the municipal government drives and adapts the trend. How to make a long-term “smart” plan? What kind of smartness is needed in our city? Which department should be in charge of the smart infrastructures? How to regulate data and processes to protect citizens’ security and privacy? Those kinds of considerations and adaptations distinguish the smart level of cities. Lastly, despite all the fancy techniques, smart city as its early phase is more like a reform of attitude that the municipal government is willing to listen to its people’s need, to build more communication channels with today’s information technology.
Can you give to our readers a pragmatic example of “city’s smartness” that you think is valiant in the ICT sector?
<< SF311 app for residents and visitors to San Francisco allows users to quickly and easily report quality of life issues by sending pictures, a brief description, and a map-based location. Whether reporting issues such as graffiti, potholes, or street cleaning, the app will route requests directly to the appropriate servicing agency for quicker response time. The user can view the status of the case in the app and receive a notification of its completion. >>
As a smart city, to understand the status of the city and requirement of citizens is essential. Instead of implementing expensive cameras and sensors everywhere and deploying staff to check the infrastructures regularly, the municipal government can motivate their citizens to report any issues they noticed, via their own camera-phone with accurate location information.
There are various advantages of this application:
- it reduces response time to discover urban issues, saves the cost caused by the potential problem.
- it reduces some cost of implying massive amount of ICT infrastructures.
- the municipal government can understand citizen requirement timely, well and accurate.
- social wise, by using this app to report issues and follow updates, the citizens gain a strong sense of participation and engagement in the community they live, which could enhance the sense of belongingness.