Bridging the gap between Smart Cities Strategies and Local Residents

Ho Jun Tang
June 1, 2020

Smart Cities Strategies provide incredible outcomes for councils in all aspects of public services. This includes environmentally in reducing the community carbon footprint, creating efficiency in utilities, reduced congestion, upgraded infrastructure and incredible amounts of data, capable of informing future decisions. These outcomes will draw in investment of $189 billion (USD) in global spending on smart cities by 2023, forecasted by the IDC Worldwide Smart Cities Spending Guide.

But if you asked your neighbour, “how has the investment into smart cities affected your life?”, I would predict it would be difficult to get a confident response. But they’re not alone, a ComRes study found that 96% of citizens were unaware of the smart cities initiatives run by local government. One key cause of this, is the nature of smart cities investments. Many of these investments e.g. into sensors, data and street lights, provide indirect benefits that residents don’t engage with. Thus, leading to low recognition and understanding.

Here lies a key threat to smart cities outcomes. According to the KPMG Smart Cities Snapshot 2019, funding is the greatest barrier to smart cities outcomes. Funding will need to be sustained in order to generate the long term outcomes that smart cities provide, especially around the environment, infrastructure and data-induced decision making. If residents don’t see, engage with or directly benefit from smart cities investments, there will be reduced demand from residents for smart cities project spending. This will lead to a vicious cycle of reduced investment, lowering engagement further between council provided technology and residents.

In order to realise the incredible benefits of smart cities, local councils need to focus on engaging locals and residents with technology. Councils need residents and visitors seeing and interacting with council provided technology first hand, which not only improves their experience but also creates positive community associations with the council and the focus on technology.

A key example of technology that residents and visitors engage with in an activated public space is Yellowbox. Yellowbox has worked closely with Randwick City Council’s Smart Cities Strategy to implement a network of smart-lockers that can be accessed with a simple app. Residents and visitors gain a consistent hands-off experience at popular venues such as Coogee Beach and the Des Renford Leisure Centre, driven by technology. In a single quarter, the smart-lockers at Coogee Beach provided 414 uses and engagement with technology.

Smart Cities investments like Yellowbox, promote innovation through a visual representation of digital enhancement, whilst enhancing the citizen experience and activating public space. These investments will be crucial in realising the long-term benefits of smart cities.