A guest Smart Cities blog post by Vitor Pereira. We’re closing in on Ovum’s Smart to Future Cities event, taking place in London on April 29-30. We’ve got representatives from 40+ global cities and administrative boroughs on the attendee list – make sure you’re there too.
The new industrial and communication revolution of Smart Cities
We have observed over the past couple of years that themes related to Smart Cities have been on the rise. In 2013, for example, it was noted that it was a turning point. The emphasis of the speech was focused on the analysis of the meaning of “Smart City”, in the perception of the current state and concepts implementation phase, including market viability in the certification of many of these same concepts.
We realize that there has been a huge effort, especially on behalf of the industry and of the main economic agents in the market, in disseminating their solutions, finding partnerships in cities and within the territories, going back to 4 or 5 years ago, when huge projects of Smart Cities occupied many towns and many newspapers pages. However, as paper airplanes, many of these projects have been unsuccessful, inadequate, perhaps excessively megalomaniac, without proper intelligence or financial sustainability in their planning, guidance, implementation and monitoring. Many of them were in ineffective. But they had a contribution. They paved the way for the actual scenario. They forced the industry and key economic agents to assume a more responsible role in organizing the concepts and their implementation.
Also the institutional partners, such as Governments and cities, with the integration of some sustainability objectives in their plans of action, put aside many of the infamous megalomanias of the past years. Many of the major world cities today references in the panorama of Smart Cities chose the path of creativity and offered an active role to citizens and, not least, also opened paths of innovation and economic development, through the focus on entrepreneurship, startups and private projects, even more fundamental, promoting partnerships with small and medium enterprises already in possession of know-how accumulated over the years and because of their small size and flexibility, many of them managed to stay floating during the turbulent waters of the recent crisis. They evolved in a sustainable way, hired the right professional staff and managed to also perform and demonstrate some relevant projects that are of utmost importance nowadays.
On the other hand, universities and educational institutions also noticed the need, in many cases to join efforts in research and development of new products that effectively adjust to the real world, to cities and citizens.
Utopicity vs Cityhype
During the last few months a thoughtful current on the “utopian characteristics” of Smart Cities flourished. It is almost like a political ideology that we are waiting to see its outcome. Will this conflict be noisy or possibly silent and cynical? Who knows…what we see is that Smart Cities did open to thinkers, visionaries, philosophers, researchers, curious people, experts, artists, creative people, designers, architects, writers, painters and journalists, besides the usual professionals like ICT and Civil engineers, planning, managements and administration focused in the theme of Smart Cities, some, for professional reasons, others by mere coincidence. And much of the technology amazement with its materialistic barriers and intrinsic difficulties directly related to globalized business models felt this clash and this direct confrontation between ‘God Ex-machina’ and human artistic creativity that permitted the rise of so many of the simple things that have been applied in many cities. Some are virtually free of charge, but the levels of happiness of its citizens have increased significantly.
And 2014? How does this year present itself? What new features were developed and what forecasts the industry, cities, citizens and the administration proposed? How will this apparent alliance between technological innovation and artistic creativity continue to exist? I really hope so and there are lots of good examples in contribution and partnerships.
In principle, everything takes place peacefully and without exacerbated ideological drama. All stakeholders appear to have already assumed that the Smart Cities movement will be successful only if there is a combination of all the different factors, sectors, agents and organizations.
Honest and clear communication is the future
However, there is a common need. The need to get the message throughout. Make everyone heard and understood. That’s why in industries, the creative and technology, there is a highlight on the true need not only to communicate but also to communicate well. We are looking for the events, the bloggers, experts, well prepared journalists and communication platforms able to understand and comprehend what is occurring throughout this whirlwind of information, much of it noisy and unfruitful, some obscure and encrypted.
The multinational technology corporation, as well as the Social Association in the neighbourhood, the designer, the architect, the engineer and of course the artist… the University as well as the Smart City itself. All stakeholders in this process urgently require bridges between their products and/or technological or creative services – and the respective receivers (in many cases the same). We have realized that, at this stage, the citizens are not the only addressees of the information, but also the companies, their managers and administrators of the cities. Municipal administrations, for example, are the receivers of a vast amount of the information, marketing and communication, which is being produced by both industries. It is the first step in the materialization or development and solidness of a Smart City. They must choose on an informed basis and in possession of all the solutions that will best meet their vertical and horizontal needs. Overall, choose the products and/or services responsibly, intended to improve the quality of life of its citizens.
In a second stage of communication there is a need to bridge the gap between these solutions, services and/or products, that cities have chosen, with their obvious receiver: citizens. Also here, it is no longer possible to neither hide information nor be manipulative regarding to concepts. Administrations are increasingly openness and it becomes very easy to identify misinformation (naively or voluntary) therefore it is crucial that cities incorporate (internally or externally) competent means for communication to be direct, honest and true.
With all these assumptions provided in terms of communication there is a guarantee that if something fails it won’t be deficient information but perhaps due to inefficient solution and incompetent execution.
This crystalline transparency may not be to the liking of both industries, because many spotlights, critical judgment and public opinions will fall upon them, but it is undoubtedly essential for Smart Cities to complete their journey, reach their sustainability objectives and adequate resources organization to improve people’s lives.
In resume, to implement solutions in a Smart City in a concealed manner or with excessive advertising and marketing is no longer viable nowadays, with a vast majority of enlightened citizens and with access to diverse and varied sources of information, traditional or social media.
To get the message about a Smart city project transversely properly, it is necessary to be crystal clear, clarify the objectives and be independent and equidistant in relation to options.
It is therefore a challenge for Communication Agencies they too will have to get evolved to an innovative and different level from the current one.
This is the year of technological and creative industries. The next times, will undoubtedly be dedicated to communication within the Smart Cities. One detail that will make all the difference to the success or failure of the implemented solutions and projects.
Written by Vitor Pereira
After 20 years of Journalism and Media Professional, I’m dedicated since 2008 to new projects related with Innovation and Technology. Consultant of many municipalities to the Smart Cities theme and Tourism sector based on the newest technologies and communication tools.