The Smart City Expo World Congress held in Barcelona in November was the largest smart city event in the world, and it is only growing bigger ever year. Forum Virium was also in attendance to market Helsinki’s know-how and collect the best tips for Finland’s smart city developers. Here is a list of the upcoming trends in smart city development based on the event.
1. Competition is growing fiercer – everyone is aiming to become the best smart city in the world
The term Smart City was visible everywhere in Barcelona. It seems that every city is now calling itself a smart city. Another factor in common was that a large number of cities declared their aim of becoming the best smart city in the world, with Stockholm being just one example. In other words, smart city actors can look forward to increasingly fierce competition. With everyone declaring themselves the best smart city in the world, it is also a good time to start thinking about how to stand out. On the other hand, potential for cooperation will also increase as smart city thinking spreads among the cities and businesses of Europe.
2. The social responsibility of smart cities is increasing
The City of Barcelona profiled itself as a defender of the social responsibility of smart cities and digital human rights at the expo. Barcelona emphasises that technology should be used to provide residents with affordable housing, climate-friendly services and clean energy. To this end, Barcelona offers training in digital skills and works actively to facilitate its residents’ participation. Transparency, open data and the democratic administration of data are key.
3. Smart cities in developing countries
Major developing countries, such as China, India and Brazil, were out in force at the expo. These are areas where cities are growing at a rapid pace. Smart solutions can help achieve this growth in at least a relatively sustainable manner. While Africa was notably absent from the event, the Middle East was well represented by Dubai, among others. One of Dubai’s novelties was the first unmanned police station in the world, which offers 27 different services via a digital terminal screen. The terminal can be used to report an offence, submit a missing person report or obtain a work permit, among other things.
4. Cities’ user interfaces are developing
Major tech companies Microsoft, Bosch, Siemens, Cisco and Deloitte showcased various user interfaces for the comprehensive administration of cities. The idea is that the city’s different functions are measured by sensors, which relay the data measured to the city’s control centre, where events in the city are simultaneously analysed and predicted by AI. While similar user interfaces have been available in the past, now advanced and more affordable IoT sensor technology has begun to make them increasingly more effective. The European Union, meanwhile, is encouraging cities to create interfaces for controlling cities that are as open as possible, so as to prevent cities from becoming dependent on software suppliers.
5. Talk about emotions, not technology
“How lonely is your city?” asked the startup behind the LightApp service at Tel Aviv, Israel’s stand. A good question that appeals straight to our emotions. In fact, smart city developers would do well to talk about emotion rather than technologies. LighApp is a mobile app that connects lonely older people in need of help to young people eager for volunteer work. An older person can request help with a task such as changing their kitchen light bulb via their mobile phone in LightApp, after which the request is listed in the app as an open volunteer job. The young people using the app can then pick tasks that they would be willing to help with.