What makes a smart city?

Smart City Expo World Congress

This week Future Councils is at the Smart City Expo World Congress (SCEWC) in Barcelona and, after an exciting first day, we thought we would reflect on what it means to be a smart city and provide an overview of what we have seen so far.

Typically when we think of a smart city we think about technology but what is highlighted at this event is the reach that technology can have. From e-governance to waste, energy, transport and tourism the smart city is the evolution of all functions of a city and extends well beyond the city borders. To further illustrate this, we have highlighted some examples from exhibitors below.

One of the innovations showcased at SCEWC is the EZ10, the first example of driverless public transport. EZ10 is a microbus with a capacity of 12 passengers. The microbus runs on electricity and will soon be visible on the roads of the Netherlands, Singapore and California.  Another driverless vehicle, the Lutz Pathfinder, is also being showcased at the UKTI stand. The Pathfinder is a two-seater car and has already been used on the streets of Milton Keynes.

Drones are also a big feature of SCEWC this year, with a specific area showing the latest civil and urban applications of these kinds of devices. Exhibitors are demonstrating how drones can be of assistance in emergency medical situations in places with difficult access; in the delivery of goods and materials; in more precise aerial mapping of urban areas; in conducting meteorological controls and checking levels of air pollution, and in the aerial control of urban events or infrastructures.

There are also numerous apps with urban solutions at the show. We met with the team at Civic Resource Group to learn about their augmented reality app that lets users scan buildings, bus stops, restaurants and much more to get data and information. The app is currently being used in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and also includes a virtual teleportation feature that allows users to access a 360 degree view of a specific location or point interest remotely.

We also spoke to Vizalytics about MindMyBusiness and Neighbourhoods.NYC, two apps using open data to improve the way that communities function. MindMyBusiness is an app for shopkeepers that gives them quick and easy access to the information they need to make better informed decisions. This includes information on construction due to take place locally, health and safety requirements, information on fines and regulations as well as emergency alerts and traffic updates. Neighbourhoods.NYC uses similar information but applies it more broadly to communities. Users can type in the name of their neighbourhood and see a map of it, with details of transport delays or detours, reports of construction noise and planned roadworks, pest sightings and much more. Not only does this provide residents with useful information but also reduces the amount of correspondence for the city, as residents can easily see if something has already been reported.

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