What do Australia's smart cities need to do to stay ahead?

Step one: light up the Sydney Opera House. Image: Getty.

Smart cities create a symbiosis between information, the Internet of Things and technologies to make better decisions and provide desired services. These cities map community preferences to improve services and infrastructure including public transport, libraries and waste services. They use sensors, Bluetooth and iPhones to track conditions and activities and send awareness messages ahead of emerging problems and disasters. The Conversation

Smart cities integrate businesses in an expanding global innovation network. They do much more than creating a single great product or industry to stay ahead of the innovation curve: they develop visioning initiatives to create their preferred futures.

But making products that “change the world” does help keep locations in the news. Hyperloop systems to increase the speed and lower the cost of travel are synonymous with Californian innovators. Augmented reality glasses that will remove the need to work at your PC put New York developers in the spotlight. Singapore is known for its digital economy and driverless taxis.

Augmented reality glasses could further transform how we access and use information.

Smart cities cannot afford to be complacent about their achievements. If they stand still, they will soon be overtaken by further innovation.

Digital disrupter Uber plans to add driverless cars to its ride-sharing network. The next innovative mode of travel around smart cities will be autonomous aerial vehicles – drones and quadcopters. Dubai plans to have passenger drones up and running within months.

How can cities stay ahead of the curve?

For futurist Sohail Inayatullah, progressive innovation is empowering (increasing inclusion), nature-based (learning from, protecting and often enhancing through new technologies) and purposeful.

Mayors, CEOs and leaders create a progressive culture that attracts and retains talented staff. Smart organisations improve staff skills and design reflective spaces. They provide a healthy lifestyle culture supported by excellent pay and conditions. They also encourage employees to participate in innovation hubs, city labs, maker spaces, universities and business start-ups, and via shared platforms with Creative Commons licences.

California’s high-tech companies – Apple, Facebook, Yahoo, Netflix, eBay, Tesla and the like – gain product feedback from customers and New York financiers every year at CES in Las Vegas. CES 2017 displayed TVs with 2.5mm screens that vibrate to make sound, holographic displays, eye-tracking phones and an electric car that accelerates from 0-59km per hour in 2.39 seconds. While products on display were designed in US cities, global suppliers made many of them.

Cities also stay ahead of the innovation curve through the actions of industry leaders who promote the diversity and stability of local workforces. In 2008, US smart cities benefited from the support of Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who testified to the importance of hiring foreigners.

Microsoft, along with Amazon and Expedia, again supported Washington State in 2017 by testifying against US President Donald Trump’s immigration ban. In a joint message of co-operative governance to protect global relationships, 16 US attorneys-general rallied against the presidential executive order denying entry to citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries. They rejected the immigration ban for undermining national security and America’s core values as a “nation of immigrants”.

Separating reality from hype

Smart city “reality” is about co-creation at the fastest rate in history. This relies on physical and digital connectivity, openness to global markets and high-speed internet. By 2020, Australians will enjoy a 5G wireless internet service with speeds 100 times fast than the current NBN.

High-speed connectivity is needed to support virtual reality and rich entertainment experiences. SpaceX wants to launch 4,425 satellites, rebuilding the internet in space to create a “full and continuous global coverage”. For leaders, smart city “reality” also means promoting their city’s unique benefits. Socially inclusive, affordable cities with liveable climates attract talented staff.

Australia’s largest city, Sydney, offers those conditions. It is a global leader in bio-tech, high-tech manufacturing. It also has some of the highest levels of sustainability and natural environmental open space in the world.

Compared to London, Sydney rates better for political stability, crime rate, cost of living and cost of rent. Sydney is similar to London in productivity, world university rankings, and health system performance.

Cities with the most advanced technology and liveability include Sydney, London, Stockholm, Seoul and Toronto.


Aligning innovation to emerging futures

Smart cities reduce hype by creating visions. Visioning imagines socially inclusive, sustainable and transformational futures and consequences before enacting them.

When delivering foresight workshops, I use the acronym SELECTFTGP – for “select futures that grow possibilities”. This seeks to encompass all systems: social, environmental, legislative, economic, cultural, technological, futures, transport, governance and political. Considering all social possibilities and impacts, before narrowing to preferred futures, helps to avoid “hype”.

The Australian government has a national Smart Cities Plan. The plan emphasises attraction of talent, accessibility, connecting high-density housing and job centres and high-quality urban design. It recommends a smart city reference group to improve stakeholder engagement, a national cities performance framework, and City Deals.

Queensland is including a Townsville City Deal in its draft regional planning framework, ShapingSEQ. The City Deal will “hard wire” ShapingSEQ through an agreed delivery mechanism for project prioritisation, funding and governance. Submissions on the draft document close March 3, 2017.

Brisbane, Gold Coast, Logan, Sunshine Coast and Geelong have applied futures studies methods to their city visioning.

Smart cities will advance across the Australian landscape when state governments legislate for cities to create and align 20-to-30-year visions to their emerging futures.

Colin Russo is a futurist at the University of the Sunshine Coast.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

 
 
 
 

Where actually is South London?

TFW Stephen Bush tells you that Chelsea is a South London team. Image: Getty.

To the casual observer, this may not seem like a particularly contentious question: isn’t it just everything ‘under’ the Thames when you look at the map? But despite this, some people will insist that places like Fulham, clearly north of the river, are in South London. Why?

Here are nine ways of defining South London.

The Thames

Image: Google Maps/CityMetric.

It’s a curvy river, the Thames. Hampton Court Palace, which is on the north bank of the river, is miles south of the London Eye, on the south bank. If the river forms a hard border between North and South Londons, then logically sometimes North London is going to be south of South London, which is, to be fair, confusing. But how else could we do it?

Latitude

You could just draw a horizontal line across a central point (say, Charing Cross, where the road distances are measured from). While this solves the London Eye/Hampton Court problem, this puts Thamesmead in North London, and Shepherd’s Bush in South London, which doesn’t seem right either.

Image: Google Maps/CityMetric.

And if you tried to use longitude to define West and East London on top of this, nothing would ever make sense ever again.

The Post Office

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Some people give the Post Office the deciding vote, arguing that North and South London are defined by their postcodes. This does have some advantages, such as removing many contentious areas from the debate because they’re either in the West, East or Central postcode divisions, or ignoring Croydon.

But six of the SW postcodes are north of the river Thames, so we’re back to saying places like Fulham and Chelsea are in south London. Which is apparently fine with some people, but are we also going to concede that Big Ben and Buckingham Palace are South London landmarks?

Taken to the extreme this argument denies that South London exists at all. The South postcode region was abolished in 1868, to be merged into the SE and SW regions. The S postcode area is now Sheffield. So is Sheffield in South London, postcode truthers? Is that what you want?

Transport for London

Image: TfL.

At first glance TfL might not appear to have anything to add to the debate. The transport zones are about distance from the centre rather than compass point. And the Northern Line runs all the way through both North and South London, so maybe they’re just confused about the entire concept of directions.

 

Image: TfL.

But their website does provide bus maps that divide the city into 5 regions: North East, South East, South West, North West and the Centre. Although this unusual approach is roughly speaking achieved by drawing lines across and down the middle, then a box around the central London, there are some inconsistencies. Parts of Fulham are called for the South West region, yet the whole of the Isle of Dogs is now in North East London? Sick. It’s sick.

The Boundary Commission

One group of people who ought to know a thing or two about boundaries is the Boundary Commission for England. When coming up with proposals for reforming parliamentary constituencies in 2011, it first had to define ‘sub-regions’ for London.

Initially it suggested three – South, North East, and a combined North, West and Central region, which included Richmond (controversial!) – before merging the latter two into ‘North’ and shifting Richmond back to the South.

In the most recent proposal the regions have reverted to North Thames and South Thames (splitting Richmond), landing us right back where we started. Thanks a bunch, boundary commission.

The London Plan

Image: Greater London Authority.

What does the Mayor of London have to say? His office issues a London Plan, which divides London into five parts. Currently ‘South’ includes only Bromley, Croydon, Kingston upon Thames, Merton, Sutton, and Wandsworth, while the ‘North’ consists of just Barnet, Enfield, and Haringey. Everywhere else is divvied into East, South or Central.

While this minimalist approach does have the appeal of satisfying no-one, given the scheme has been completely revised twice since 2004 it does carry the risk of seismic upheaval. What if Sadiq gets drunk on power and declares that Islington is in East London? What then?

Wikipedia

 

Image: Wikimedia Commons/CityMetric.

The coordinates listed on the South London article lead to Brockwell Park near Herne Hill, while the coordinates on the North London article lead to a garden centre near Redbridge. I don’t know what this means, so I tried to ring the garden centre to see if they had any advice on the matter. It was closed.

Pevsner Guides

Image: Wikimedia Commons/CityMetric.

Art historian Sir Nikolaus Pevsner might seem an unlikely source of help at this juncture, but we’ve tried everything else. And the series of architectural guides that he edited, The Buildings of England, originally included 2 volumes for London: “The Cities of London and Westminster”, and “everything else”. Which is useless.

But as his successors have revised his work, London has expanded to fill 6 volumes: North, North West, East, The City, Westminster, and South. South, quite sensibly, includes every borough south of the Thames, and any borough that is partly south of the Thames (i.e. Richmond). And as a bonus: West London no longer exists.

McDonald’s

I rang a McDonald’s in Fulham and asked if they were in South London. They said no.

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