Smart cities: Why it's location, location (and communication)

Wed, 2013-09-18 06:02 -- Liz Enbysk

location and communication keys to smart citiesGeorge Percivall, Chief Engineer of the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) – a Smart Cities Council advisor -- has an insightful blog series underway on the OGC website talking about smart cities as a convergence of "ripe technologies" like the Internet of Things, the power of location, city sensor webs and more. We've posted a brief excerpt below, but encourage you to click to the OGC site for more of his commentary.

By George Percivall

George PercivallParadoxically, as cyberspace provides a world without borders, human population is becoming more centralized. The increasing production of information in cities raises issues of privacy, access, and inclusion. Who will own the brains of Smart Cities? Fast Company sees a battle for control between "hacktivists" pushing for self-serve governance and companies providing opaque systems based on proprietary technology. Achieving balance depends on an agenda of openness, transparency and inclusiveness led by municipal government and enabled by open standards.

Information is vital to the functions of cities and the role cities play in society. As stated in a document  from the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, University College London, the embryonic science of cities requires information systems and predictive models that will aid our understanding and inform policy development and planning. Is it time for a unified theory of urban living based on how city growth affects society and environment? Technologies are creating a nervous system for humanity that potentially maintains the stability of government, energy, and public health systems around the globe, as seen by MIT researcher Sandy Pentland. D City Network is working with the Group on Earth Observations to develop dynamic simulations of Earth's natural and constructed systems. Recently the “Nobel prize of geography," the Lauréat Prix International de Géographie Vautrin Lud, was awarded to Michael Batty for his interdisciplinary research on the complexity of cities.

Cities are rapidly expanding information systems to meet the needs of residents. The city of Santander aims to be a prototype for "smart cities" across Europe. The SmartSantander project is a city-scale experimental research facility installing 12,000 sensors able to “model, measure, optimize, control, and monitor complex interdependent systems of dense urban life.” Korea's Ministry of Land, Transport, and Maritime Affairs developed the world’s first u-city standard platform and is coordinating with OGC on standards. IFTF's study on Smart Cities identified technologies at the intersections of urbanization and digitalization. Industry is responding to the cities' needs. GSMA, an association of mobile operators and related companies, has a connected cities program for applying wireless communications. Intergraph is a leading company in building smart cities upon a geospatial foundation.

Smart Cities are a convergence of the ripe technologies identified previously in this blog series (in particular: Indoor FrontierThe Internet of Things, and The Power of Location) along with the additional topics of Urban Scale Geography, Sensor Webs in Cities, and Observing People in Cities, as described below.