Monday, October 28, 2013

Smart Cities for Social Change

Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.
                                             Kofi Annan

The thing about changing the world... Once you do it, the world's all different.
                            ― Joss Whedon, Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Long Way Home

Imagine a world where our lives are enhanced by a community which has learned to adapt and to innovate. A community which has achieved to include its urban residents in public services and active participation in co-design. A world in which data-driven analysis of economic activity, resource consumption, and mobility aides the process of designing a new city

This city then carries the label of a smart city.
With Singapore already in the process of evolving into one [1], at least for this community the course is set. But the road ahead will bring a change in socio-economic structure. Carrying the notion of social progress this path will bring paradigmatic change through investments in physical capital as well as social and intellectual capital. 
But what exactly has to be done, which investment should be taken, to reach an era where citizens of all group can engage with the community and the community itself is prepared to be engaged?
As for many initiatives of the 21st century, the life-blood of it all is data. One example for this is ParkerMeister. Every weekend, thousands of Singaporeans are stuck in traffic wasting fuel, creating pollution, and stress by finding a place to park. The Singaporean government has realized that and started to publicly offer real-time parking data of major shopping malls in Singapore to capable resident to analyze and to build services around;  which at the end benefit the community at-large. [2]
We, tenqyu, have now extended on this data-set and created a location-dependent helper application which guides a parking seeker to an available parking spot in one of the many parking lots in Singapore. [3]

Screenshot ParkerMeister:

But the concept of smart cities does not end with data availability and an application biosphere around them.
While supporting the development of technical and social innovation is a crucial steps towards achieving the goal of smart living for smart people, the target which we all should not lose out of sight is the integration of urban management systems, powered by leading information and telecommunication technologies which will drive sustainable economic growth, a high quality of life, and effective management of natural resources.

At the end of the day, this improves economic and political efficiency and enables a social, cultural and urban development that engages its residents to participation.

With this next step in evolution within the Smart Cities framework, tenqyu’s urban exploration app “Qyu” [4] already now offers a tool for active participation which encourages an open dialogue between government and its citizens.
Screenshot Qyu:

With the simple scan of a QR code, the resident is queried about a specific desired path [5] which the government can then choose to adopt. This will guide to urban planners in Singapore to schematically define mobility nodes, streets, building massing, and location of resources to create nested compact urban cells (i.e., walkable neighbourhoods)
And this will be a benefit to all of us.


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