Redefining Smart: The Critical Role of Developing Smart Cities
by Aarti Tandon
March 18, 2020
The development of smart cities has never been more important than it is today.
In a world of connected everything—people, places, things—the need to futureproof our cities against pandemics and epidemics, climate change, and other serious issues using smart and interoperable technologies has become critical. A.I., predictive analytics, sensors, heat maps, broadband, and open data—the underpinnings of smart cities—are essential to ensuring the safety of our citizens and increasing quality of life.
Companies like BlueDot, an infectious disease surveillance company that uses A.I. and data analytics, flagged COVID-19 nine days before the World Health Organization. Other startups like One Concern are using machine learning and A.I. to increase resiliency, mitigate impact, and effectively respond to natural disasters. And on the local level, startups like Biobot are using sensors placed in sewers to map the opioid epidemic in real time. Technological innovation is helping cities and first responders receive faster and more precise information through high speed networks, visualization, and drones.
What once seemed like a futuristic idea—cities filled with traffic lights adapting to real-time road patterns, autonomous buses, and sensors that flag free parking spaces—is now a reality.
But equally important, is a need to redefine the term “smart cities”—a city cannot be “smart” if it has homelessness, if its citizens cannot breathe, and if commuting to work is an extraordinary feat every morning.
In fact, developing cities that are “smart” for all is more important than ever—as people work and go to school from home, the digital divide is being exacerbated.
That is why we are redefining what it means for a city to be “smart” with equity, prosperity, humanity, inclusion, and justice serving on par with blockchain, A.I., IoT, big data, and automation; it’s the unifying theme that underpins a bolder, more thoughtful and equitable society.
We’re redefining what it means for a city to be “smart” with equity, prosperity, humanity, inclusion, and justice serving on par with blockchain, A.I., IoT, big data, and automation.
And it’s the driving force behind Smart City Expo Atlanta, a community of forward-thinking business and community leaders, government officials, venture capitalists, and entrepreneurs, which engages online and in annual event.
In light of the current circumstances, we are taking one day at a time to determine whether we will gather physically or digitally in June to collectively address how resiliency, social and economic mobility, equitable infrastructure, and human capital must be prioritized in the new “smart” city—one defined by digital transformation, artificial intelligence, early-stage investments, and other civic innovations and solutions.
We will additionally help cities find the balance between the benefits of new technologies while addressing the security issues and ethical challenges arising from overconnectivity and the collection of data.
After all, what’s the point of introducing autonomous vehicles if they don’t reduce traffic, resolve road-safety issues, and improve access to transportation for everyone? Rather than simply digitizing existing infrastructure, we need to use technology to address pervasive issues, from homelessness, pandemics, and the opioid crisis to climate change.
We hope that each of you remains healthy and safe and we’ll do our part to share stories about the inspiring initiatives that have the potential to transform our world not just for technology’s sake—but for the sake of every citizen.
Aarti Tandon is the CEO of Smart City Expo Atlanta