Home » Workplace Health and Safety » Why Smart Cities Are the Way of the Future
Workplace Health and Safety

Why Smart Cities Are the Way of the Future

It’s increasingly obvious that our cities are our future. Right now, more than half the world’s population lives in urban centers and it’s predicted that number will be near 70 percent by 2050. That represents both a challenge and an opportunity.

“As consumers develop more aptitude and use of technology in their everyday lives, cities will be asked to adapt to new behaviors and social expectations,” said Katie Meyer, smart city policy advisor and program manager at Cincinnati Bell, a telecommunications service provider.

The benefits of being smart

A smart city is an urban center that uses information and communication technologies like WiFi to engage its citizens, increase efficiency, and support exclusivity. Cities are rich in data, and smart cities use that data to track results and inform their citizens. 

This can impact every aspect of urban life positively, ranging from better traffic flows (it’s estimated traffic congestion costs motorists $87 billion annually), to traffic signals adjusting to real-time data, to public school students having equal access to information and digital tools, to improved healthcare services for residents.

It all starts with technology. 

“The foundation of any smart city solution is fiber, WiFi hotspots, and engagement software,” Meyer said. “Our goal is always to identify and understand local problems and work through innovative technology solutions, rather than pushing technology for technology’s sake.”

Public-private partnerships

Companies committed to serving their communities, like Cincinnati Bell, can be powerful partners for municipalities that want to bring the benefits of a smart city to their citizens. 

“Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) allow communities to identify where each partner can best facilitate their role in the solution,” said John Putnam, director of the smart city program at Cincinnati Bell.

One area where these sorts of PPPs demonstrate their worth is in the growing drive to ensure all citizens and communities within an urban center benefit from smart city advantages equally. This is becoming increasingly important as the gap between the poorest and richest citizens continues to grow

“There is a new mandate for cities to develop digital inclusion strategies,” Meyer said. “Cities must be proactive or underserved communities will be left further behind. 

“For years we have seen an emphasis on bridging the digital divide in urban areas; these same problems exist in rural areas, and we have been working with a number of partners to deliver high-speed internet into these underserved areas as well.”

Economic drivers

These smart city partnerships also drive economic success. Municipalities can leverage data networks to manage parking spots, ensuring there are sufficient spaces for visitors who want to spend money in their city, and they can deliver visitor information easily. They can also share data analytics with local businesses to help improve engagement and ultimately attract new businesses to their city. 

“Many of the initial successes we have had in smart city solutions have been with declining communities driving economic development and revitalization of their central business district with public WiFi,” Meyer said.

Putnam sees the smart city as inevitable and stresses that there are several components to a successful implementation, the most important of which is the PPP. 

“Local governments must ensure the planning and implementation of smart city solutions happen holistically,” he said, “with input from the community, and with partners, in order to achieve the maximum outcome.”

Next article