Urbanization, digitization, automation, urban intelligence – does it all sound complicated? These concepts and many others, which are becoming more widespread, express growing interest in the ongoing migration to urban areas. The smart city is no longer a passing fad, but the promise of a better future.
The names of large cities are often linked to concepts such as overcrowding, air pollution, traffic jams, chaos and noise. But they are also the beating heart of business activity, employment centers, education and innovation. They play a key role in promoting sustainability, economic and social inclusion, and overcoming environmental and social challenges. It is interesting to realize that it is actually the concentration of large populations in cities that allows us to maintain the “green lungs” that are so essential.
Cities strive to be attractive places to live, do business and visit. They want to be the focus on social and communal interactions, to arouse a sense of belonging and provide a good quality of life.
Ever since the industrial revolution, when huge numbers moved to the cities, the urbanization process has continued unabated. Researchers estimate that by 2050 some 70% of the world’s population will live in cities. So it is not surprising therefore that in the modern era the smart city has become the next essential.
The Smart City – an outline of its image
Apparently it is difficult to decide on one simple definition of the smart city, out of the huge variety of possibilities. Can we say that it represents the interaction between technology and advanced innovation? Is it a place where traditional networks and services become more efficient thanks to digital technology? Or is it a combination of infrastructures and technology, of municipal activity and technological dynamism? In fact, all these definitions are similar and touch on the same points. So we can sum up by saying that a smart city is a city which connects various initiatives and innovations, to achieve goals such as upgrading services for residents, strengthening and encouraging sustainability, maintaining mobility, accessibility and transport all over the city, and more.
So what makes a city smart?
Intelligence tests for cities? Of course not, but there are some elements that have to exist in order for residents and municipal authorities to enjoy the benefits of the smart city. First of all, information is the core of the smart city. Today, there is no doubt that the ability to collect large amounts of data quickly was never better, as well as the ability to analyze it. Imagine tens of thousands of sensors and cameras distributed around the city, reporting events in real time. The information is rapidly fed into the city’s command and control systems, which analyze it and provide a quick, effective and almost immediate response. The use of information not only makes life in the city easier, but also preserves the health and safety of its residents.
A very important element of the smart city is the accessibility of municipal services through digital platforms, mobile apps and so on. By these means, residents can stay informed about what’s happening in their city, report incidents or hazards, pay their bills online, and so on.
Smart transport is another factor, which is of course essential to make a city smart. Improved public transport, smart parking solutions, better infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians, online travel systems, all these give residents and visitors convenient, easy and faster mobility.
Sustainability and preservation of the environment is already an integral part of life in the 21st century, and an important element of providing an instant improvement to quality of life, while looking forward and working towards a better future.
In a smart city all these topics are on the agenda – smart waste disposal, recycling facilities, green construction, rental schemes for bicycles and non-motorized vehicles in order to reduce congestion and air pollution, add more “green lungs” and beautify the city. These are just a few examples that illustrate how a smart city is a green city, in which life becomes more pleasant and healthy.
What is happening worldwide?
More and more cities in the world are adopting the smart city concept and implementing it, with constant improvements to the various elements.
In 2019, London was chosen as the smartest city in the world, only slightly ahead of New York and Amsterdam. These three cities demonstrate the integration of knowledge, the use of technology, and smart urban and transport planning. In effect, these elements mean that the quality of life, welfare and safety of their residents are constantly improving.
And what about here in Israel?
In Israel, too, smart cities are gaining momentum, and in 2014 Tel Aviv was even chosen as the world’s smartest city, thanks to its online information system for residents. Various public and private bodies are working to increase awareness in Israel of the need for smart cities, and we can see how a number of cities in the country are actually implementing ways of making the cities in which we live smarter.
There is no doubt that the pace of life and the rapid advances of the 21st century lead to the need for an innovative environment, to provide the solutions and means to improve quality of life. The smart city framework embodies the promise of a more successful, cleaner and safer future for ourselves and our children.
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