Connecting people and places

The next generation of city evolution is here. Rapid advancements in technology and global growth are requiring cities to be smarter and adapt quickly to meet the demands of its inhabitants, and at the same time improve quality of life.

But what is a smart city? Although it can be defined in different ways, a city that is designated smart is often developed using data and digital technology to improve the quality of life. From connected infrastructure to shareable data, cities need to embrace smart technology to improve the performance of urban services such as utilities, transportation and energy to help deliver sustainable growth.

In this 360°View - Smart cities article, four of our future leaders share their insights on living and working in a smart city, and how other cities can adapt for the future.

 

Jay Subasinghe, Senior Project Manager

Zürich

Jay is a project and programme management lead with experience working on real estate projects across Australia, Europe and the UK.

Why do you think your city is ranked as a smart city?

I think Zürich is a built environment anomaly. From timely transport networks to supportive social welfare schemes, the city has culminated a modern urban development approach rivalled by few contemporary cities.

Zürich has successfully embraced technology in a way that maximises convenience. An example is that Zürich’s rail system is completely app driven. You can buy your daily, monthly or yearly rail pass using the app. There are no turnstiles or gates, only a personalised digital bar code, checked irregularly, making the daily commute more efficient!

What could other cities learn from Zürich’s smart initiatives?

The key learning is that well thought-out policy, public need and social trends should be allowed to lead the way, rather than led by economic prosperity.

I’ve visited (and lived in) too many cities where poor planning and the prospect of economic gains, has led to overdevelopment without the physical and social infrastructure to suit. In my opinion, Zürich’s robust quality of life-driven approach to urban development, provides a good template on how future smart cities could be realised.

Do you think that living in a smart city improves your quality of life? If so, how?

Absolutely! Technological advancement has yielded exponential improvements in life expectancy, governance, communication and overall convenience. Shorter waiting times (if any), customised product delivery and improved trend analysis are just some of the benefits we reap in this digital world.

Ashwini Dharmarajan, Project Manager

Toronto

Ashwini joined us in 2017 to work in Bangalore and moved to Toronto in 2019 as part of the project management team.

If you were the Mayor of Toronto, what would you make smarter?

I’m passionate about the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals and bringing these to life. As Mayor of Toronto, I would enact strategies that support these goals and the 2030 agenda. These would focus on safety, sustainability, affordable housing, clean energy, transport connectivity, digital advancements and employment opportunities for all. I would pledge to leave a lasting sustainable legacy for generations to come.

What are you most proud of about your city?

I am extremely proud of the accessibility I have to nature. Toronto is one of the greenest urban cities in the world. Be it parks, lakefront or hiking trails, you can enjoy nature at its best while relishing the city life!

I’m also proud that Toronto is the most culturally diverse city I have ever been to! It gives a sense of feeling that people from any part of the world are welcome to live here.

Do you think that living in a smart city improves your quality of life? If so, how?

One hundred percent! This comes from my personal experience, as I have lived in Mumbai for 22 years and worked in Bangalore for two years before relocating to Toronto.

In its journey to become smarter, Toronto is focusing on several solutions to improve quality of life and user experience, such as offering modernised service delivery, affordable high-speed internet connectivity, open data to drive transparency and engagement in government and digital literacy to close the technology divide among its people (Toronto Public Library is a leader in digital inclusion and literacy initiatives).

Living in Toronto has changed my life for the better – I have it all!

Nanne Hurts, Seniour Consultant

Amsterdam

Working on projects around the world, including in Gabon and now Amsterdam, Nanne embraces the smart city life, cycling to work on an electric bike.

What in your view makes your city smart?

The city of Amsterdam is recognising and exploring the opportunities to improve urban life with data analytics. A great example is Amsterdam Smart City, an online platform with open source, shareable data where people, government and business can gather intelligence to help inform the planning and construction of buildings.

What are you most proud of about your city?

Amsterdam is a world leader in encouraging alternatives to car travel and has great electric vehicle infrastructure. Improving mobility is a key consideration of a smart city. Car, scooter and bike sharing and leasing initiatives are growing and are being embraced by the city and its people. The evolution of bikes within the city in the past decade, to be able to facilitate transport by bike in all situations, is remarkable.

If you were the Mayor of Amsterdam, what would you improve and make smarter?

I would provide free access to all means of public transport to reduce carbon emissions. Selling the data generated by following the travel habits of people will generate income instead. Data will become the most valuable piece of income for companies.

Do you think that living in a smart city improves your quality of life? If so, how?

I do believe we are only at the start of this revolution. Once we have developed a way to use the available data to its full potential, it will have a huge impact on our lives in terms of efficiency, enabling us to spend our precious time in the way we want.

Richard McLellan, Associate Director

Auckland

Richard leads the project management team in New Zealand, having relocated to Auckland in 2016 following five years with us in London.

What in your view makes your city smart?

Auckland’s location offers great opportunities. These include multiple transport options, expansive views from the top of volcanoes and the ability to enjoy the waterfront and beaches so close to places of work in the Central Business District.

The city has had to adapt to risks and challenges such as the potential for natural disasters including volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis. Smart solutions are in place to mitigate natural disaster risks including building movement monitoring systems and an emergency alert system which uses cell tower data to send alerts to mobile phones in high risk areas.

What could other cities learn from Auckland’s smart initiatives?

Auckland has developed smart initiatives for monitoring water quality which could be replicated to benefit other cities around the world. Drones are used to test water quality at Auckland’s most popular beaches. This allows mitigation measures to be focused where they will be of most benefit. There is also a focus on reducing health risks through Auckland’s ‘SafeSwim’ website, which uses sensors to monitor live water quality information and displays a traffic light system to show which beaches are safe to swim at.

What are you most proud of about your city?

I am proud of the steps taken in Auckland to make it a great place for locals and tourists. With tourism a huge part of the country’s economy, this is often used as an opportunity to invest in better, smarter solutions which will provide long term benefits.

Auckland’s focus on attracting major events such as the Rugby World Cup and the America’s Cup, provides the catalyst for such developments. Preparations underway for the America’s Cup are helping to transform the Wynyard Quarter Innovation Precinct into a destination. This area is home to a number of large technology companies and ‘Auckland’s Smartest Street’, which is a test bed for new technology including smart lighting, smart bins and smart parking solutions. I am excited by what is to come for the city.

This content forms part of the 360°view series - smart cities.