Pondering how digital technologies will change how we as citizens live, work and play is both overwhelming and exciting. There are now a billion transistors for every human on the planet and, as these sensors become embedded in everything from sprinklers to parking meters and then connected to our computers and phones, city managers and users will make more efficient and effective choices.
The common language of binary digits means more things around us will talk to each other as well as talk to us, our friends and families in ways that change our behavioural patterns. Cities will never be the same again.
The opportunities are too long to list and I’m personally sure that many of the best ideas have yet been imagined, let alone invented. However commentators on the future of digital communities expect significant changes in public safety, smarter buildings, government planning and administration, energy and water management, transport, health, education and social and cultural services.
Technologies that make us interact with our cities in smarter ways will also see accelerated gains in environmental sustainability. Relieving traffic congestion or smarter ways to manage water and electricity are just the beginning of a whole new urban operating system. Cities will be less random and more programmed for efficiency and adaptability.
A truly smart city combines broadband, wireless, open industry computing standards and innovative services to meet the needs of residents, visitors and businesses. It’s a city that has ubiquitous infrastructure and a better use of data available for private and public use.
Adelaide is on the verge of this upgrade. We now have a world class Wi-Fi network providing free connection in the most streets, squares and parklands up and running. Adelaide will be the first capital city in Australia to this which means a first mover advantage to build on our reputation as a smart city. It will re-energise our education and creative industries in conjunction with the Smart Cities Laboratory CISCO is soon to build here in Adelaide.
Within a few years we will have real time information available via mobile phone applications that will improve your experience. Better information during festivals and events, retail connecting with customers or a car parking space letting you know it’s available are some of the obvious changes that will make Adelaide more user friendly.
Not everyone is technically savvy, but 51% of all Australians already own a smart phone and of those aged over 65, 37% are already using the internet. This number is growing rapidly as councils, like Adelaide, provide free technology training and the loan of iPads for a test run.
Importantly our long term success as a smart city in the 21 Century Information Economy depends not on hardware, but software. That means people. A community that can embrace new technologies and accept of “change” as essential to an adaptation will be decisive for global urban competitiveness.
Smarter, more connected, cities will be global leaders. These cities will have tools to anticipate problems and make better decisions and coordinate resources with a connected community that understand what is happening and why.