NEOM is planning to take the “"smart city" concept to its highest level yet.
A smart city is a metropolitan area where best-in-class technologies are combined and integrated with urban design in the most beneficial way possible. People are connected to technology and the environment to the highest degree. The ultimate goal is to create a highly livable, healthy, cohesive and prosperous society with an underlying theme of efficiency and sustainability. The parallel goals are to improve the environment and reduce overall costs.
"There is no consensus as to the definition of the concept, but there is, however, a common denominator: the 'smart city' is a 'city managed by data.' "
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Best practice is observed, refined and shared. Stakeholders share responsibility. The potential of communities is maximized.
"A Smart City is one that places people at the center of development, incorporates Information and Communication Technologies into urban management, and uses these elements as tools to stimulate the design of an effective government that includes collaborative planning and citizen participation."
The Road toward Smart Cities: Migrating from Traditional City Management to the Smart City
The concept involves much more than just physical infrastructure – things like social capital and information & communication technology (ICT) are also vital components. A city's digital platform needs to be scalable and future-proof.
Close participation by a large proportion of citizens is important. The aim is for their lives to be undergoing constant and sustained improvement. Citizens need a good level of digital literacy and nobody should be left behind. They need to be able to work harmoniously in partnership with organizations and industry. It is a dynamic process where dialog needs to take place as openly as possible. Governance is seen as a critical issue.
"Ellis Juan, representing the Inter-American Development Bank, said he had attended Habitat III [UN-Habitat, the UN program for sustainable human settlements] and for him the major issue is governance and how smart cities are managed and how to make sure residents are at the center, 'We cannot have smart cities without smart citizens,' he said."
'Habitat III, what's that?' — the view of businesses in the smart city sector
The idea of smart cities like NEOM is a response to the global trend towards urbanization and the massive resources that will be required to meet this challenge. There is an evolution towards the concept in parallel with the rising demand for environments that include a higher quality of life. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) estimates that $10 trillion will be required for global infrastructure by 2025.
"As world urbanization continues to grow… there exists an increased demand for intelligent, sustainable environments that reduce environmental impact and offer citizens a high quality life. A smart city brings together technology, government and society to enable the following characteristics:
a smart economy
a smart environment
Smart Cities (About)
A smart city's infrastructure is loaded up with sensors so that everything can be measured and monitored. Society receives superior services at a lower cost because better decisions are made. Many decisions are made by AI based systems.
Data is constantly collected from multiple sources to help manage the efficiency of municipal systems, for example real-time traffic control to reduce jams and energy management to avoid black-outs. Networked systems are monitored and controlled in the service of residents. Information is exploited automatically or by individuals using mobile apps.
The City of LA's Clean Streets program achieved a significant improvement by using mobile data collection and smart phones. The efficiency dividend from this data-driven approach meant they now had time to grade more than 20,000 miles of streets. Illegal dumping could now be located quickly. This problem had previously been identified inefficiently via complaints received.
"Mobile data collection is also helping Los Angeles to clean up city streets. Teams from the city sanitation department use video and smartphones to document illegal dumping, abandoned bulky items and other trash problems."
The Rise of the Smart City
Technology is used to improve safety. Mobility is managed with intelligent systems to maximize efficiency. Traffic is optimized at peak times – just as electricity consumption is optimized for comparable benefits. Water management is made more efficient with resultant savings.
Sensors are used to monitor vibrations and/or damage to infrastructure. They can detect leaks in pipes, or robots inspect them. Predictive analytics can even use algorithms to anticipate and prevent problems. Open data is used to help city services become available at any time on demand, while security and confidentiality are secured (in theory).
"In Colombia, Medellin uses infrared cameras and video analytics to monitor traffic in real time, optimizing its flow to reduce congestions and increase safety. Since they implemented a smart mobility system in 2010, they reduced accidents by 35 percent and fatalities by 44 percent."
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A DEVEX report notes that a new efficient street light system in Barcelona lowered costs by 20-40 percent.
Broad-ranging decisions are faster, and better. Time and money are saved across the board. The benefits can be so dramatic that any country which ignores the Smart Cities revolution risks falling behind in global economic and livability rankings. The context is unique in each location so the implementation must vary.
An inter-connected ecosystem can be created and shaped over time. Standardization is being worked on so that software and hardware from different suppliers in different contexts can still communicate.
Modern technology, smart transport systems, architecture, clean air, a green environment, climate resilience, renewable energy, AI, responsive government, integrated IOT, geospatial imaging, efficiency dividends, machine learning, healthy buildings, increased opportunity, robotics, 5G, innovations in education and entertainment and a host of other factors combine in synergy to create a higher quality of life for all.
"Wellbeing of citizens is a core concern of Smart Cities! Besides comfort, preference satisfaction, and personalised services, wellbeing is tightly related to health and its continued care. The concept of 'smart healthcare' therefore emerges as one vital pillar of smart cities and is demanding great attention from governments, the industry, as well as from the scientific community."
Smart Cities care for Health
Inclusiveness is a pillar of UN-Habitat – the United Nations program for a better urban future. It has a mission to facilitate universal shelter and sustainable human settlements. Smart cities have a key role to play in improving equity and achieving this goal.
UN-Habitat estimates that more than 90 percent of the "phenomenal shift" towards global urbanization will "take place in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean."
"Mindsets, policies, and approaches towards urbanization need to change in order for the growth of cities and urban areas to be turned into opportunities that will leave nobody behind."
UN-Habitat at a glance
A plethora of innovative technologies are combined such as transportation and IOT sensors, intelligent buildings & lighting, big data sharing & analysis, automation, AI, robotics and connected & self-aware systems. Development is highly integrated. New service paradigms will emerge.
" 'Smart cities are built upon the Internet of Things (IoT) allowing citizens to reimagine how they work, live and play,' said Rahim Bhatia, general manager, API Management, CA Technologies."
Smart cities could lead to cost savings of $5 trillion – report suggests
(Citing an ABI Research white paper)
Hundreds of small innovations (like intelligent car parking space alerts, mobile apps and smart bins for example) can add up to build significant benefits. The local economy grows. It is not only governments who benefit from the efficiency gains – individuals and enterprises do too. The right balance needs to be found between free and paid services so that residents and investors both benefit fairly and further progress is encouraged, not impeded.
Companies will benefit from innovations like driverless trucks. Individuals will benefit from things like cheap renewable energy. Their lives are improved in many ways. The environment benefits too.
Neom Zone intends to implement world best-practice technologies as well as pioneer new themes. Planning a city where robots will outnumber humans is just a starting point. From day one NEOM will be "smart" by applying the principles to the highest degree – during the construction and planning period itself.
"The concept of a 'smart city' is now being used to describe modern urban competitiveness and highlight the growing importance of social and environmental capital in profiling the attractiveness of a city."
Public and private sectors are forming partnerships. Smart Cities are a global movement and any nation that does not participate risks falling behind.
The "Smart City" is emerging as a major theme in the progress of civilization, and numerous governments, corporations and other groups are working hard to promote the benefits and share information. This sharing of best-practice case studies is a characteristic of the movement in the drive to generate positive outcomes.
The technology and processes underpinning the evolution of Smart Cities is undergoing constant development and refinement. Efforts are being made to share information freely. The momentum in turn is building industries and creating jobs.
" 'I'm looking forward to seeing a whole group of innovative new startups that you can already see being built up. The new wave of creativity that they are bringing to the table is enormously exciting…' "
" 'We want to encourage that small entrepreneur or that student in the university to build an application or to build a service… That's a whole other industry that is just now beginning…' "
Mrinalini Ingram, Head of the Smart City initiative, Verizon
Smart cities: The smart person's guide
As an example of the concept, the Smart Cities Council provides training and events in pursuit of leveraging technology "to achieve a more livable, workable and sustainable world."
The Council is a coalition of thought leaders which acts as an advisor to cities and as a market accelerator. Its website has assembled the world's largest collection of relevant resources, provided free.
The Council provides smart city tools, expert advice, customized workshops, assessments and roadmap blueprints pointing the way to successful futures. It is a network of companies advised by various universities, laboratories and standards bodies. Numerous cities and utilities have taken advantage of the Council's services. Dubai is among the notable participants in one of its Readiness Workshops.
It has produced a 364 page Smart Cities Readiness Guide which describes strategies for building a future friendly metropolis and includes a mass of comprehensive information.
(The PDF guide should be downloadable by scrolling down to the link currently called: Readiness-Guide-V2-8-24-2015.pdf. However, the link does not seem to work. You may be able to find the document via a Google search or via this alternative link at URAIA: http://uraia.org/en/library/publications/?page=3)
A YouTube video states that the Council is "inventing our urban future" and provides the startling information that there are "over one million people moving to cities every day" and that the value of the smart cities sector is "projected to reach $3.3 trillion by 2025."
"Between population growth, constrained resources and challenges like tough climate targets, cities have no choice but to get smarter."
Smart Cities Council Readiness Program
Sharing of knowledge across borders is vital. Knowledge is an essential foundation of prosperity. Some super cities are already much larger than entire nations.
NEOM, which will be a semi-autonomous region within Saudi Arabia, will likely form a new, large scale and pioneering variation of the trend in decades to come. With an area of 26,500 sq km (10,230 sq mi), the zone may eventually become a "country within a country." The notion of a "smart city" could come to challenge the notion of a "nation" in terms of economic and political significance.
" 'Irrespective of whether cities are located in India, China, or Africa, cities have a lot of common issues they need to address, which is why we need to build a global network of cities,' said Dubey [Sunil Dubey, senior advisor to Metropolis, the World Association of the Major Metropolises]. 'With more than 50 percent of humanity living in cities, the focus has to move from nations to the creation of smart cities.' "
Taking the smart route to inclusive, sustainable and connected cities
With impeccable and inclusive implementation, the potential rewards are immense. Cities become more competitive, resilient and livable. Conversely, nations which ignore this phenomenon risk decline.
Numerous projects are in development around the world, from small to large. NEOM, with its half trillion dollar budget, intends to be the grandest Smart City for a long time to come. Neom Zone, beginning as it is at the dawn of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, in its scale and ambition looks set to take the concept to its highest iteration yet.