Smart cities are in the news. You have some vague idea it has something to do with making your morning commute a bit better. But at what cost? Cities spending millions, or billions, on sophisticated cameras, sensors and tracking software? Traditional ideas about privacy becoming extinct?
But what if there were a better way to create a smart city?
What if we could actually have cities that made people's lives better? Not just local residents, but visitors who can enjoy the city to it's full potential? What if we could have cities that were more responsive to citizens' needs, but without a top-down Big Brother approach?
As it happens, there are some very smart people who may have the answers. At the very least, they seem to be asking the right questions.
It was my distinct pleasure to wade into this territory with two certified experts: Vaclav Vincalek and David Vogt, the co-founders of Urban Opus. "Urban Opus is Canada’s smart city innovation hub, positioning Vancouver as a living lab for new solutions, new ventures and global opportunities."
Give the future of smart cities a listen
This is to date of of my favourite long-form conversations that I'm doing over at 'The Future of' podcast. (Since it's taking Apple a bit of time to populate it on the official site, you can check out The Future of smart cities chat here or at my personal blog, Jonathon Narvey says it all).
Here's a bit of a preview for the conversation.
Defining what a smart city is
Smart city sensors vs. citizens opting in by smartphone
Smart city applications you probably haven't thought about yet
Smart city tech isn't just for cities, but for rural environments as well
Bonus news clips about smart cities
Apparently, I was pretty lucky to get Vaclav on the show. He's been exceptionally busy providing reporters of all stripes with some smart thinking on smart cities. Here's what he's been saying lately:
"Smart cities will achieve integrated transportation. With an app, riders (both private and public) will get where they want to go in the way they want to go (e.g., the most scenic, cheapest, fastest). It could also help fast-forward municipal regulations over whether to even allow ride-sharing tech, how to implement bike lanes, how many tour bus companies they will allow to operate, etc."
“Let people opt-in on their smartphones to specific apps that will give them information that will actually improve their lives,” said Vaclav Vincalek, a tech entrepreneur and board member of Urban Opus, a smart city innovation cluster. “That way, you’re not tracking data from people who have totally reasonable motivations for staying off the grid.”
A smart energy grid could make a huge change. Imagine if every parked car in a city helped power the city at night, effectively becoming a distributed battery system. As the sun comes up in the east, cars start charging, in turn powering homes, hospitals, etc. For consumers of electric cars, this could be a real benefit on their electricity bill and reduce pollution at the same time.
Thanks again to Vaclav and David for a fine conversation! I can't speak for them, but for my own part, I'm feeling a bit smarter.