A city, like any organization, thrives or fails depending on its ability to process signals from its environment. Cities have long been subject to shocks because the information systems designed to signal impending events in their internal or external environments were inadequate. The management of infrastructures, processes, and events within a city has traditionally been inefficient or ineffective because of an inability to harness data toward real-time decision-making. This has led to significant wastage of scarce resources and squandering of opportunities. Furthermore, until recently most citizens have been passive recipients of plans and programs devised by their elected officials. As the population in cities has exploded, the leveraging of the collective intelligence of diverse citizens toward the betterment of the city has remained elusive as a result of poorly designed participatory platforms—for example, the town hall meetings that are often used to solicit input but impose significant barriers on the participation of citizens. Urban planners and designers have historically focused on innovating for citizens rather than with citizens, or, better, providing citizens with the resources and capabilities to innovate for themselves.
Today, following advances in communication and computational technologies, cities are harnessing data and information with a view to becoming more “intelligent.” The adoption of mobile technologies and the diffusion of Internet connectivity has made information accessible to most individuals, even the poorest of the poor. Cities are embedding a wide assortment of technologies within their physical and social spheres so as to enable real-time processing of data to further the goal of smarter decision-making. In addition, cities are liberating data that was previously withheld from the public. Open data programs exist in many major cities through which data on a wide variety of operations and governance mechanisms are being made available. Citizens, in turn, are playing a more active role in shaping the future of their environments. Citizens are not only creating mobile apps that promote smarter ways of traversing the city and conducting various functions, but are also building online participatory platforms so as to source problems and solutions from their fellow dwellers and better manage public goods.
My chapter contains seven spreads that cover key elements of intelligent cities:
- Liberating Data
- Quality of Life
- Living Labs
The core city that I focused on is London and the secondary cities are Tokyo, Shanghai, Singapore, Stockholm, Sydney, Abu Dhabi, San Francisco, Boston, and Amsterdam.