"Smart city" is one of those buzzwords increasingly also used in city branding. It's not always clear, however, what the term refers to. Is being "smart" about being sustainable, or just tech-savvy?
We caught up with Olga Kolotouchkina, Associate Professor at CEU San Pablo University in Madrid, and Gildo Seisdedos, Professor at IE Business School, Madrid, who recently shared their research insights into "place branding strategies in the context of new smart cities: Songdo IBD, Masdar and Skolkovo" with readers of the academic journal Place Branding and Public Diplomacy.
Why do cities want to be "smart" - and what does "smart city" mean?
As cities have become powerful magnets for people all over the world, urban population keeps growing steadily. While this situation might be positive for the economic wealth of urban spaces, space sharing, urban liveability as well as urban sustainability become a key challenge to address.
In this context, smart cities lead urban innovation practices in order to optimize urban flows, the supply of key services to residents, as well as their environmental impact. The range of smart initiatives implemented by cities is very broad nowadays: from sophisticated smart city platforms operating on a city level in order to measure, record, connect and manage all key urban systems, to a wide variety of specific apps optimizing anything from parking facilities to energy-saving solutions.
All these initiatives are closely linked to the advancements in the field of fibre optic, augmented and virtual reality, the Internet of Things, sensoring, the Big Data and cloud computing.
Smart technology makes cities more sustainable, manageable and predictable.
The other perspective of urban smartness relates to the ability of urban spaces to enhance the collective intelligence, creativity and inventiveness of their residents. Cities become unique labs of citizens' entrepreneurship, social mobilization, as well as content generation and new formats of digital representation of places by residents. This social innovation is also closely linked to the technological innovation of the urban space.
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