Humans have been living in cities for a long time now. Something like six thousand years ago the first human settlements grew large enough to earn that title. Over the millennia great cities rose and fell. The center of a great empire in one century could be left empty and abandoned the next. But while the fortunes of individual cities were always precarious the idea of the city continued to thrive.
But it wasn’t until the 20th century when the majority of humans moved to large densely populated cities. Electricity, plumbing and the car allowed cities to grow to previously unimaginable sizes. Now, in the early 21st century information technology is giving us the chance to rethink what the city can be.
Managing resources like water, power and sanitation can be far more efficient if you know exactly when to deliver those services when people need them. But redesigning the city for the information age isn’t going to be easy. There are many stakeholders that need to be oriented towards a common vision. And in a democracy like Canada getting people to agree about anything is always a challenge. So, explaining that vision is hugely important.
Suresh Parmachand has been thinking a lot about that vision. He previously worked with the Canadian Standards Association to develop smart technology rules and regulations for Canadian industry. Now as the VP of marketing for Trend Hunter he helps brands to prepare for the next phase of the digital economy.
Making the smart city talk
“I’ve been spending a lot of my time the last seven years on interoperability. Not only on on intelligent devices but on systems as a whole. What materials you use on the structure you’re building will depend on the heating and cooling loads that you’ll require for your indoor climate. How do those systems then contribute to the larger city? You have to look at creating this vision and then make sure that it’s realistic. And that’s really where this virtuous cycle gets created.”
A democratic smart city
“Building the smart city is tremendous challenge. And it’s a tremendous opportunity as well. Innisfil, believe is doing it right. They’re going to articulate a vision, but they’re doing it democratically. And then by listening, it’s that empathetic approach. And it’s a human centered approach, which is the right thing to do. And I think that’s great. I think that’s what the cities need to do.”
The Danish model
“One city that’s cited as a kind of a benchmark is Kalundborg, Denmark. And they’ve taken the systems approach where they’re looking at the city as a system. Every independent piece, whether it’s the heating, or the lighting, or the actual management of waste is done in such a way that the output gets used as an input for something else. And so the environmental footprint is so small, it is it is kind of the city of the future, I believe”