Skip to 0 minutes and 1 secondLORRAINE: Cities are places where creativity and new ideas flourish, yet they also at the centre of global challenges such as rapid urbanisation and climate change. Smart cities are harnessing creativity to develop innovative solutions to these challenges. But what will it be like to live in a smart city? There are many contrasting visions of what a smart city is and how they will transform the environment and our lives. One vision is the use of smart technologies to manage cities more efficiently. In a smart city everything from roads, to buildings, to the electricity grid are controlled through a city operations centre.The data can be used to provide real-time travel information, manage energy supply and control lights.

Skip to 0 minutes and 46 secondsThis approach is often led by city governments working with large technology companies. This top-down approach is seen as flawed by some and increasingly there is a shift towards recognising the central role of citizens in developing smart cities, a bottom-up approach. People are using smart phones, apps, social networks and DIY sensors to solve the problems that matter to them. Cities are opening up their data and encouraging developers and citizens to use this to create their own apps through hackathons, and start-ups are using digital technologies to create transformative services that are disruptive and challenge commonly-held views on ownership. Many smart cities are piloting solutions such as smart grids electric buses, driverless cars and healthcare apps.

Skip to 1 minute and 37 secondsSome countries have set out to create smart cities from scratch such as Songdo in Korea and Masdar City in the United Arab Emirates. Smart city solutions need to be applicable to cities of all sizes, both old and new. There is great potential to apply smart technologies to city challenges. But as with all technology there is also potential for abuse. Privacy, sustainability and ethics are just some of the issues facing the development of smart cities.

Life in a smart city

‘Smart cities’ is a term used to describe the use of smart technologies and data as the means to solve cities’ sustainability challenges. Many cities are in the process of making themselves smart, using data and technology to improve transport, energy use, health and air quality or to drive economic growth. Others are being built to be smart from the start. So this is a term that relates to the present and to the future.

Whatever your interest in smart cities, welcome to the course. In the video you hear from Dr Lorraine Hudson, one of your lead educators. She is a Research Fellow on smart cities who previously worked in local government managing a £3 million smart city programme. Your other lead educator is Professor Gerd Kortuem, of The Open University, whose research focuses on smart cities, the internet of things and computing for sustainability.

As a learner taking this Smart Cities course you’ll find yourself in the presence of experts from many disciplines, meeting a multiplicity of smart city projects and applying what you learn to a real project in your own city or community. To help you capture what you learn, here are a few tools.

  • A list of references gives you a bank of published reports cited in the course. See the ‘Downloads’ below.
  • The Smart Cities Project Ideas Template is a place for you to note down discoveries and reflections in Weeks 1–4 as you draft ideas towards your own smart cities project. It can also act as a record of your progress. Download this now in PDF or .docx format.
  • The Smart Cities Project Business Model Canvas comes into play in Weeks 5 and 6 as you create your proposal for your smart cities project. Download this now in PDF or .docx format.
  • A suite of Smart City Padlet boards allow you to upload photos, ideas, links and drawings, to share with your fellow learners. To help you to focus on each core area of learning you’ll be directed to these as you work through the course, and you can revisit any Padlet to refine your postings or add new ones whenever you like. There are tips and guidance on using Padlet in the ‘See also’ links below.
  • If this is your first FutureLearn course take a look at the ‘Using FutureLearn’ page in the ‘See also’ links below.
  • You are also encouraged to take part in the comments and in the discussions, by asking questions and engaging in conversation. To help you do this we have two mentors, Matthew Barker and Luisa Ruge. You can ‘follow’ the educators and the mentors by visiting their profile pages.

The point of becoming a smart city is that it will increase resilience and improve the lives of citizens. So should the vision of a smart city be to implement more technology or to explore how technology might enable the city and citizens to solve the challenges they face?

(Video and Text: © The Open University (Assets: BBC/fishking/OPEN DATA INSTITUTE (Made available under creative commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International - http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/)/Marius/Wikimedia commons/The Programmable City Project))

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Smart Cities

The Open University