How to make cities smart?

What is a "smart city" and what we need to do with our cities?

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Oleksandr Krakovetskyi 03.21.2017

What is a "smart city"? It is a city defined by six major criteria: smart economy, smart mobility, smart environment, smart people, a high standard of living and smart governance. The city can be considered "smart" when investment in a human and social capital, as well as in traditional (transport) and modern (ICT) infrastructure create the basis for sustainable economic development and the high quality of life with smart management of natural resources by governance and citizens.

In Ukraine, the topic of smart cities was raised not so long ago, but some cities have already begun to implement smart city projects. Vinnytsia, Lviv, Kyiv, Dnipro, Odesa are the pioneers and approximately ten more cities interested in implementing smart city projects.

Smart cities are often associated with the technologies only, but it is important to make a point that technologies are important, but not crucial component. The main task of technologies - automation of processes, help in data collection, processing and analysis.

High-quality two-way connection between government and citizens and timely response is extremely important components of "smart city".

Universal algorithm how to make smart city does not exist. Each city is unique, has its own characteristics, but it does not mean that you can not find what unites them. Let's do it.

The concept of smart cities

Before making any decisions we need to imagine what city we want to build. This should be a city for cyclists and creative people, or whether it should be a city for business, or a tourist town, etc. Next you need to understand the basic problems of the city (for example, for Lviv - smog and rubbish, for Kyiv - transport and parking). And of course, first of all, you need to focus on the solution for these problems.

Each city should start with the concept. As a Kyiv Smart City active members we helped Kyiv authorities to create a Kyiv Smart City Concept (document can be found here).

Creation of infrastructure of the city

Infrastructure of the city means the software and hardware platform with a set of basic services and instruments, such as center of data processing and keeping - data center (or cloud), remote access, unified system of authorization (through BankId, MobileId, citizen card), tools for work with EDS, information security system, unified standard of API (e.g., OData). Usually such concept is called an unified city platform.

Having infrastructure you will not need to make your version of the authorization or work with EDS in every new project.

Ideally, all program services that will operate on the basis of a single platform, must meet the following criteria:

  1. Unified architecture. In the development of complex software systems most of the time not actually takes the development by itself, but their deployment and integration with other systems. So having / creating an unified platform can significantly reduce time for deployment and support.
  2. Interoperability. Different systems must be able to communicate with each other. The simplest example of interoperability - availability of API.
  3. Open standards. Do not confuse open source code and open standards. Open source code means that the code of the software available to everyone, while the use of open standards means that the software will work (almost) on all modern devices, will not require the purchase or installation of additional equipment or software.

This schematic shows the information architecture of the city:

Source: Kyiv Smart City Concept

City services

Once the infrastructure is developed, cities can start implementing some services.

I picked up some basic services every "smart city" should have:

  1. The internal system for city municipality with e-document flow and unified communications.
  2. The public part (Administrative Services Center with electronic queue, public portals and services such as open budget or electronic procurement, citizen's cabinet with all electronic services, unified API, the official city mobile apps, portal with open data).
  3. Installed sensors and video cameras in key locations of the city - transport, housing and communal services, public places) that will allow real-time monitoring of the situation and collect information for further analysis.
  4. City surveillance system that is integrated with a police.
  5. Municipality transport monitoring.
  6. Notification center for citizens about important events and accidents.
  7. Single entry point (call center) where residents can apply for any problems which is integrated with other services - police, emergency, housing services and others.
  8. The system of collecting complaints and issues about poor quality of services.
  9. Single legal entry window - the opportunity to consult on legal issues.
  10. Participation budget.
  11. E-voting with online statistics.
  12. E-entry to the kindergartens.
  13. E-system for fairs and public events organization.
  14. Electronic system of communal property and land.
  15. Petitions.
  16. E-ticket. Non-cash payments.

Information Resources:

  1. City news.
  2. The tariffs.
  3. Subsidies.
  4. Online and offline services.
  5. Transport schedule/GPS tracking.
  6. Infrastructure details: hospitals, kindergartens, blood centers, clinics.

Other important things that city should do:

  1. Create a brand book of the city.
  2. Develop common rules for the design of signboards in the city. The presence of signboards on each house according to the brand book.
  3. Create clear and comfortable transport scheme in all the key points of the city according to the brand book.
  4. Prohibit any advertising in the city-center, advertising restrictions in the rural areas.
  5. Unify the rules for placing signs, shop names, monitors.
  6. Unify design of the transport stops.
  7. Unify shops selling newspapers, cigarettes, tickets for transport according to the brand book. Deny all other types of shops anywhere.
  8. Unify rules for reconstruction of historical centers and buildings facades.
  9. Create a strategy for positioning the city.
  10. Create powerful information department, which will tell about all the new things, what they do and how they can be used.
  11. Make reconstruction of crowded places - museums, squares, recreation zones, transport stops and more.
  12. Develop touristic routes, navigation and tips for tourists. Duplicate information about key attractions and routes in English.
  13. Remove non-certificated taxi drivers from the stations. Create a municipal taxi service and special zones for taxi drivers.
  14. Create a bicycle-rent city system.
  15. Create an effective channel of communication with citizens.
  16. Make reconstruction of old buildings (e.g. create creative spaces).
  17. Create pedestrian zones. Create a shopping street (it is desirable to combine it with pedestrian zones) and a creative street (like Andrew's Descent).
  18. Provide free public Wi-Fi at least in the city center.
  19. Create a place for summer theater, public lectures, concerts of young not-very-known bands.

And the main thing - quick and strict response to poor-quality services, lack of professionalism and sabotage.

Of course, this is not all the services that can be realized in urban areas, certain areas I missed - such as medicine. Some cities have already built their own platform, some cities decided to realize the maximum number of services without having a single platform.

An important question - the cost of development and implementation of various services. There is good and bad news here. The bad new - it's not cheap but with high quality of software products, the effect of their use and further savings will pay these investments quickly enough. The good new is that many services in one or another form already exist and the only task is their integration in the city. Having public API to all services, we can hope for their further development and improvements by the IT community.


Jeff Speck: 4 ways to make a city more walkable:

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