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Smart city: the eco-friendly future of urban living is inside a human-centred environment

The adjective smart, which has now become part of the international vocabulary, can be translated in many ways and defines, for example, an intelligent person, but with something more. Someone (or something, as in the case of a smart city) is brilliant and sharp, able to keep up with the times and shows strong problem solving skills in all circumstances.

A word that can very well be used in many circumstances, objects and abstract entities: we use daily smartphones and smartwatches, which give us advanced features compared to their predecessors; we watch smart TVs, which integrate traditional television with Internet technology, and we hope for smart working, based on flexibility, autonomy and a greater sense of responsibility.

In recent years, we have also heard about the concept of a smart city and smart districts

Let us look in more detail what a smart city is and what the current smart cities to look at are as a model for the future.

How to turn a city into a smart city

In 2014, Seedwind, a company specialising in aeronautical, environmental, industrial and telecommunications engineering, drew up a list of characteristics that make a city a smart city.

  1. 1. Intelligent public car parks, perhaps located outside the smart city but well connected to the centre by modern public transport infrastructures
  2. 2. Production of biogas from waste, using waste from city landfills to produce clean energy
  3. 3. Green buildings, certified according to energy efficiency standards
  4. 4. Green areas and parks
  5. 5. Renewable energy sources within the city to ensure the metropolitan energy needs without relying on fossil fuels or external networks
Riprendere il contatto con la natura in contesti ultra urbani
  1. 6. Digital communication, through the use of apps that spread data via smartphones and tablets, for better control of traffic and mobility
  2. 7. IT systems for energy efficiency, to reduce waste and monitor consumption in real time
  3. 8. Car sharing
  4. 9. Online management of car parks, which will allow us book your parking space through the Internet and thus limit queues, traffic and the resulting environmental pollution
  5. 10. Shared commitment: indeed, none of this would be possible without the commitment and collaboration of human capital.

Efficiency, sustainability, mobility and, inevitably, technology

These are the key words that have guided the research in the last ten years, since, in 2009, the first project of the ideal smart city began in Rio de Janeiro.

In 2011, the Smart City Expo World Congress was also born, a stage and place for ideas discussion and exchange between companies, governments, institutions and public administrations, on issues concerning digital transformations, development of the urban environment, mobility, governance, economy, collaboration and inclusiveness of the cities of the future.

Londra ha un richiamo fortissimo per i giovani di tutto il mondo

The importance of the smart city for the protection of the environment

According to United Nations estimates, by 2050, the Earth's population will reach 9.7 billion and, of these, 68% will choose to move to urban centres, with a consequent increase in energy consumption, waste production and greenhouse gas emissions.

Given these premises, it is clear that there is an urgent need to find solutions to prevent future difficulties and improve the living conditions, as well as the necessity of doing so by adopting a long-term perspective. These changes will indeed require time to be developed and implemented, as well as patience to take root in the natural behaviour of citizens.

The smart city is the solution to respond to these emergencies

The policies pursued so far have never dealt with the management of these issues, which have thus become increasingly complex and risky for the future. Nonetheless, we fortunately have today the knowledge and tools to intervene: an example is the so-called Internet of Things (IoT), the set of technologies that allow you to network any object to monitor their actions, collect information and develop solutions based on what has emerged.
Una città interconessa per un migliore scambio di informazioni

The “smartest” parts of a smart city

The latest ranking of the IESE Cities in Motion Index (CIMI), made by the Centre for Globalization and Strategy, a platform that analyses and compares 165 cities in 80 countries examining different social, environmental and economic parameters, confirms the first place of the best smart city to New York. London and Paris, respectively second and third, shortly follow NY. Ranking below the list, Tokyo, Reykjavík, Singapore, Seoul, Toronto, Hong Kong and Amsterdam, a sign that the concept of smart city is cross national, something that unites various points of the globe.
New York, la smart city per eccellenza
One aspect that is useful to keep in mind is that, although there may be common visions and technologies applicable to several realities, each city is a small universe in itself, with unique problems and priorities and therefore unique solutions.

Here are some examples of the innovations a smart city should have

Thanks to new technologies, Barcelona has adopted a system of participatory democracy for some time now: through the Dedicim platform, citizens and government are respectively informed about the proposals and projects that are put in place and the requests and needs that need to be heard, in a constant confrontation and mutual exchange of ideas and possible solutions.

As far as the application of technological tools to the material management of the city is concerned, projects have been launched concerning street lighting and the installation of intelligent traffic lights, to improve traffic and ensure faster travel for emergency vehicles in the event of danger. Car sharing and the presence of numerous recharging points for electric cars discourage the use of private and gasoline powered cars, while the use of sensors that indicate the state of the rubbish bins in real time guarantees prompt intervention to optimise the service and ensure urban decorum.

Barcellona ha tutto: il sole, il mare e la tecnologia
In 2010, London launched its London Datastore, while New York has been offering the NYC OpenData for a few years: these portals allow citizens to see for themselves the solutions that governments are adopting and, vice versa, allow governments to collect feedback on the situation.

Smart Nation, whose claim is "transforming Singapore through technology", has been active in Singapore since 2014. In the smart city of Southeast Asia there are, in fact, initiatives to improve and simplify the lives of citizens, to create new business opportunities and to build a more supportive and cooperative community. The government has identified a number of strategic projects, such as National Digital Identity and e-Payments, Smart Nation Sensor, Smart Urban Mobility, and incentives aimed at improving the quality of life of families, especially after the birth of a child.

Since 2012, with the launch of Amsterdam Smart City project, Amsterdam has been a true open-air smart city laboratory, inviting young researchers to experiment in the field to find solutions in the areas of energy saving, mobility, quality of life, health and social inclusiveness.

A smart city is "smart" if it is at the forefront of infrastructure and technology, if it is economically competitive, if it offers services and solutions, but especially if it is inhabited by smart citizens who want to question their habits, adopt new patterns of behaviour and adapt with confidence to the inevitable changes they face.

Solo persone bellissime e capaci di adattarsi al cambiamento possono vivere nelle smart city
In his novel Invisible Cities, Italo Calvino wrote: “From a city, you don’t get joy because of the seven or seventy-seven wonders it has, but because of the answer it gives to your question”. This is, at the end of the day, the best possible definition of smart city: a city able to give "smart" answers to the questions and needs of those who live in it.

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