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Knowing cities to create societies

Elle Archer discusses the ‘why’ of the need to integrate technology and data with people and their aspirations within a smart city.
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So, that was great that we have all these technologies but what are we trying to do with them. So, the acquisition of data, the processing of data, and also the dissemination of data. And the integration of varying data sources and how they could possibly aid in helping us shape our communities and our societies. In 2010 I started travelling the world because I wanted to have a look, I’d been hearing since 2005, 2006 what had been going on, the discussions around Smart Cities, before they had progressed into Smart Societies and Smart Communities. And I wanted to see some of these initiatives.
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So, I started to travel the world and have been doing so now for the past decade, marrying that together with some of the things that I’ve been doing commercially as well. Really just to see for myself. You can have an understanding of what’s going on through papers but to really truly understand you must observe, you’ve got to be there. So, the travelling aided in helping me kind of work out how this could all possibly affect our societies and communities. I brought those findings back to Aotearoa and then started speaking on them and have been an advocate in engagement in this space for quite a, quite a while now.
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And it is about the wider Smart City group educating those siloed groups within Smart City and bringing them into the bigger picture thought process. How are these technologies, how are they playing a part in being subservient to the ultimate purpose, which is to really cultivate humanity and ecology. [Chris Vas]: Elle, talk to us about your experiences domestically here in New Zealand where Smart Cities evolved and how that has transformed over a period of time from Smart Cities to Smart Communities? [Elle Archer]: Back in 2015 LINZ, Land Information New Zealand, ran a pilot initiative. There was 13 pilot programs with each of the Councils, Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch.
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I bore witness to a lot of the initiatives that came out of these pilot programs, so I did a bit of domestic travel, and had a look at what was going on in these spaces. I saw the initiation of an initiative called ‘The Hub’, which was in the Wellington City Council, of course, did that. It was basically a repository of information of the pilot initiatives and their learnings in, into one space. I went also and saw a lot of the roll out of the flexible sensing platform initiatives, utilising, obviously, kite sensors by NEC throughout some of the city centres.
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Also saw a fantastic initiative, it was a scheme, Wellington once again, rolled out which was the homeless migration scheme and was there also as an observer when it was being presented by two of the ladies who were involved in that scheme. This initiative is exactly what we needed to see come out of the Smart Cities or Smart Societies thinking where we were now able to observe the behaviours and the migration patterns of where the homeless were going. So, now they could work out sending social services down, how can we better provide aid to the homeless, and also to the businesses that they were occupying during the mornings when they were trying to open up, that sort of thing.
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And this is really, that particular initiative is very important and brings us back to the root of why we’re doing all of this, which is for the people. How can we better serve humanity? But for me, at the end of it, Wellington really led the way in this space because right from the get-go they understood that it was about the people. Their goals at that stage were for a people-centred city, dynamic city, connected city, and an eco-city, which is very important.
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And off the back of that, when the pilot program was deemed a success and, and it was closed, Wellington, the Council itself had a lot of international observers, thumbs up, a lot of success in that space and they became global leaders in that space and they’re doing a lot of good things there as well. The other thing that we saw as well was a CCTV transport initiatives rolling out, Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch. Christchurch, of course, as well have, have had the seismic initiatives moving forward. Part of the flexible sensing platform is the use of kite sensors. Kite sensors are primarily used on streetlights, actually anywhere, they only used to be on streetlights because it was easy maintenance.
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They’re just sensors which you can put anywhere around the city or within your communities that will collect information. So, it’s really about data acquisition at that, in that space. [Chris Vas]: You talked about ecology and that being an integral part of Smart Cities going forward. [Elle Archer]: Oh, yeah. [Chris Vas]: Where does green fit in the context of Smart City today? [Elle Archer]: Everywhere. Do we want trees and animals and life on this planet to exist post-us? And with us? Absolutely. Green buildings is part of that thinking. Green building is where we’re taking the built environment, combining that with technology and nature.
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So, we hear a lot about smart houses, smart buildings, and that’s wonderful, but how are we working those in with biodiversity initiatives, with horticulture, how are we better living alongside our domestic animals, how are we better living alongside other animals? So, how can we capture this best? And this is through green building. There are actually a lot of research initiatives in this space globally and I think we, we really need to be aware of this. Especially coming from Aotearoa. [Chris Vas]: Elle, are there global initiatives in place that help cities to prepare themselves for what it is to become a Smart City and a Smart Society? [Elle Archer]: The short answer is: Yes, there is.
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The Smart City Council have fantastic initiatives in this space. I like to think of them as action ready and action initiatives, because there’s only so much talk we can have in this space, time is still ticking and we are still going through what we’re going through, and the planet is still doing what it’s doing. So, we need to get to a point of action. Smart Cities Council Australia and New Zealand, so I think this is a global challenge as well, have the global readiness challenge. There’s three primary points to the purpose of this challenge. One is accelerate cities. So, this is about becoming liveable, workable, and sustainable spaces.
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The second part of it is to design a challenge that cities win just by participating. This means that we’re encouraging engagement, drive, and action. And a third part of this is to share the actionable knowledge. So, there was an initiative years ago called ‘the Fireball Initiative’ and I was very vocal about this to multiple industry sectors, I was presenting this on, in, in the past. The fireball initiative was about sharing information Council to Council, Government to Government. We are opening this up to not just the governments sharing information, this is about sharing information with commercial entities, with any experts, any expertise, any people that have ideas in this space globally. And that’s now moved into the activator initiative as well.
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So, the philosophy of the readiness challenge is very simple. Number one, it’s a need for urgency. So, stop talking and start acting. The second part of this philosophy is we are in this together. One city being Smart is not relevant unless that attribute can be replicated and scaled. And then the final part of this philosophy is Smart Societies need to help other Smart Societies. Reaching out to cities globally and help them and not with more talk or paper. So, there is relevant KPI associated with this challenge. The KPI primarily is to reduce the time and cost of cities’ planning, financing, the procuring, and implementing projects.
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So, in the developed world this KPI is about four years, in a developing world it’s less than ten. So, part of this process is getting to know quickly. How do we move forward quickly? We understand where our yesses are, what are our capabilities, but where is the no? And we will only know what is not going to work if we go and do it. So, that challenge, I think, is very important. It’s for all, it’s not just for Smart Cities, I believe it’s a Smart Society or a Smart Community challenge, a platform for a Smart Community challenge. And I am hoping that Aotearoa, we get on board and understand it’s not just about us.
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Elle Archer, Independent Director, discusses the ‘why’ of the need to integrate technology and data with people and their aspirations. This essentially is what comprises a smart city.

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