“What will the cities of the future look like?” is a question that has long been asked by scientists, writers, and the public alike. Many have sought to answer this over the years, and certainly the image of the “modern” smart city has changed with the times, moving with new developments in technology and society.
In a recent seminar, Professor Elena Simperl – director of the QROWD project – was able to respond to this age-old question. The event took place in early December, and featured speakers and panelists that discussed the development of smart cities and related tools. Particularly, the impacts of smart technology, such as crowdsourcing, big data and cognitive computing were heavily debated.
The impacts of said smart technologies were presented across three main areas, which, collectively, represent the modern image of the smart city itself. Firstly, “The Productive City” refers to the ability of a city to create jobs, increase economic outputs, and develop hubs of production. For this, leveraging sustainable green-technology and utilising sensing systems is essential.
“The Inclusive City”, Professor Simperl explains, “is citizen-centric, participatory, and uses data responsibly”. She goes on to scope the power of citizen sensing, crowdsourcing, and human-in-the-loop solutions as both valuable and integral aspects to the modern smart city. Furthermore, using the QROWD project as a prime example, she highlighted the importance of citizen-driven data and solutions which underpin all smart city development.
Finally, the “Resource-Efficient City” refers to the ability of cities to be sustainable across all sectors. This is a core component for smart cities, as in order to last, they must be self-sustainable in a rapidly changing world. This includes the use of smart technology to improve resource allocation, reduce pollution, and utilise each of the cities’ outputs.
While smart technology may enhance each of these aspects of the modern smart city, there remain challenges. Data integration, confined pre-existing infrastructures, and technological challenges are all core problems which must be addressed successfully to ensure the vision of the modern of the smart city becomes – and remains – a real-life embodiment.
To do this, Professor Simperl emphasises that technology alone is not enough to drive development. Instead, all smart technology must keep citizens at their core and incorporate this throughout methodologies inclusively. This ensures the protection human skills and human-machine workflows, where machines are unable to replicate this effectively on their own.
The citizen-centred approach is a unique aspect of the QROWD project. It explores the what, who, how and why of the modern smart city to solve problems through participatory methods such as crowdsourcing. Professor Simperl concludes that it is only by utilising the full range of approaches and techniques that we can apply effective crowdsourcing at scale, keeping the citizen-driven approach at the heart of smart city development.