Smart cities

Smart cities will make our lives easier and our future more certain.

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By Anthony Williams
“Man shall live for evermore, because he lived in a smart city”, this will be the political slogan of twenty second century’s politicians or scientists; or whichever group survives this one. However, the concept of Smart Cities is a reality. It is evolving alongside a group of technologies known to us as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Blockchain Technologies, Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data etc.
Smart cities, like other mentioned technologies, will make our lives easier and our future more certain. Architects are people responsible for the design of a city and hold the greatest amount of influence on the lives of the people living in that city. After them comes the work of the builders of that city and so on and so forth. This is how cities are being built around the world. In essence, a city is built by the vision of architects, the plans of the builders, the aim of the governments and lastly by the day to day struggles of its citizens.
We in Pakistan can see this from the Mughal Architecture of our historical ruins to the British built functional infrastructure. But now is the century of an Individual, so now we and in the future every city will be built around every individual citizen. How can it be done? A smart city is defined as “A smart sustainable city is an innovative city that uses information and communication technologies (ICT) and other means to improve the quality of life, efficiency of urban operation and services and competitiveness, while ensuring the needs of present and future generations with respect to economic, social, environmental and cultural aspects.” You may have been surprised while reading this description of smart city and one reason for it is the lack of many things that we see around us in Lahore and every city that you may have lived in, included in this definition.
The main plan behind a smart city is to build a city on Information Architecture. It’s how the virtual world will be manifested in the physical world and will be built alongside bricks and mortar, with data, information and knowledge. An example would be the shift from reading books, newspapers etc. in the physical world to reading online (the virtual world). Human cognition uses data to build relations between them, which we call information; which in-turn helps us to see patterns, which we term as Knowledge. And libraries have traditionally been Knowledge centres; something that is totally missing in Pakistan.
In the 20th century, city design was dictated by factors like economics, transportation and the separation of living and working spaces. In this century, we will be using Big Data to model our smart cities and Design Thinking to simulate the ideal(s), we have for it. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that today’s technology is a precursor to the coming smart city, because you already have smart cars, smart phones, smart buildings and smart kids. Every tech startup today is working on some urban living problem(s). So in conclusion, a smart city in the words of Anthony Townsend “Smart Cities are fixes for the dumb designs of the last century, to prepare them for the challenges of the next one.
A new industrial revolution to deal with unintended consequences of the first one. Congestion, global warming, declining health, all can simply be computed behind the scene. Sensors, software, digital networks and remote controls will automate the things that we now operate manually. Where there is now waste, there will be efficiency. Where there is volatility and risk, there will be predictions and early warning. Where there is crime and insecurity, there will be watchful eyes. This revolution hopes to wrest control over cities of previously unthinkable size, 10, 20, 50 or even 100 Million people.”

Anthony Williams is CEO of Tax Dosti – An AI-Based tech startup working out of Daftarkhwan, Lahore.