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What impact has technology had on urban development?

The cities of Amsterdam and Singapore provide contrasting models for how smart cities could be developed in the future
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Hi, I’m Anupam Nanda, and I’m Associate Professor in Real Estate Economics. So I’m in economist, and I also head up Centre for Intelligent Places, which is a research Centre, a multidisciplinary research Centre looking at places and spaces, real estate market, as well as the urban market. When you think about property market, how it operates, and you have lots of people involved there. You have buyers and you have sellers. Those are the two main protagonists. But at the same time there’s so many others involved. A solicitor is involved, a surveyor is involved, a financier is involved, governmental officials are involved. And one of the key things that we find all the time, that information is not equal at all hands.
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So the quantity and the quality of information vary. As a result of that, it creates lots of opportunity for market, but at the same time, it creates constants for the market. Now technology can fundamentally change that. It can bring a lot more people to it. It can reach a lot of people. It can make the processes better. It can make the transactions go faster, quicker, at a price that everybody likes. So that is the fundamental, that technology can change and is already changing as we speak. But for the next 20 years, 30 years, that’s the most important aspect of the technology in real estate. Technology can come in different steps, as well. It can be the building technology.
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It can be the transaction technology. It can be the market technology. So how we reach out to the market. So one aspect of the building technology is that the buildings are getting different. Buildings are getting more connected and more sustainable. That’s one aspect. Then the other aspect is that how do we market the product so we can do virtual reality and all sorts of technology impact there, and we can reach the market better. We can tell people the story better. And the third aspect of the technology is that it can create financial products and opportunities for that. So technology can come in different steps, but as I said in my very beginning, that the most important aspect is information.
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When we think about smart city, that is an old concept. That’s been there for the last 20 years. Where it’s basically ICTUs in the urban market and cities. But at the same time, we all have the basic human intelligence. We always had in the history of human civilization. And technology is an enabler. It’s not going to replace anything, it is just going to enable us to do things better, do things faster, do things more efficiently. So that’s why we are calling it an intelligent city, or intelligent place. Smart is more about technology. Hard technology. But intelligence is about how technology can enhance the basic human way of doing things.
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Some of the key skills of real estate are not going to be forgotten. That’s quite important, that understanding the property, thinking about the people, thinking about the users of the property, those are constant. They’re never going to change. But what can change is that the technology improvement and enhancement in doing the same thing, doing the things that we already do.

What role has technology played in urban development and the implications for real estate?

Professor Anupam Nanda, Director of the Centre for Intelligent Places, draws on the wider idea of ‘smart’ or ‘intelligent’ cities.

This has become a popular concept across the developed world and is a focus for both academic and professional research.

A paper by Hafedh Chourabi and others — ‘Understanding Smart Cities: An Integrative Framework’ — provides a framework for evaluating the success of smart city strategies.

They emphasise that an effective smart city strategy needs to be an integrative framework involving the application of new technology, organisational management and coherent policy.

Important roles in smart cities

Within this framework important roles are also played by:

  • Accountable and transparent governance
  • Involvement of people and communities
  • Economic competitiveness and productivity
  • Environmental sustainability
  • ICT infrastructure

Maps to show location of both Singapore and Amsterdam

Above: the red dot on the left map is the approx. location of Singapore; the red dot on the right map is the approx. location of Amsterdam.

Contrasting city models

Amsterdam and Singapore provide contrasting models for how smart cities could be developed in the future. Whilst they both have an ‘integrative framework’ of technology, management and policy, they tend to give different weight to the other factors listed above.

Singapore’s approach has been more ‘top-down’ than Amsterdam’s, with the government leading and organising many of the initiatives.

Amsterdam has placed more emphasis on community-based activity and ‘bottom-up’ initiatives.

You can see how each city has approached the development using Amsterdam Smart City website and Smart Nation Singapore website.

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