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Smart cities 23/12/2019

A Smart City Is Built To Serve Humans, Not To Show Off Tech

More than connected streetlights, smart cities are about connecting people — and serving them. All of the IoT, AI, Big Data, and other state-of-the-art digital tools should never be an experiment of tech for tech’s sake, but an instrument for building better public services and improve urban infrastructure. 

To achieve this, we should put residents and workers first, which also means: consider the impact on the planet. Around the world, prosperous cities begin by identifying problems and responding with innovative solutions. Here are four such examples of the human-centric approach to making cities:    

Barcelona is making significant strides in enhancing the quality of air (and quality of life) for its residents — without IoT.     


The Catalonian municipality has created “supermanzanas”: former roads and intersections turned into semi-pedestrian streets and public spaces with playgrounds, trees and benches.    

As of Jan. 1 2020, the city will create a “low-emissions zone” where all diesel cars dating before 2006 and gas vehicles dating before 2000 will be banned. 

The city is considering a shared car system — complete with child seats — that would encourage neighbors to carpool. 

This year, the IMD Smart Cities Index chose Singapore as the World’s Smartest City. But it didn’t win on digital disruption alone, as the index also valued categories such as health and mobility. 

Singapore's community-focused program Healthcity Novena uses urban planning as a form of preventative healthcare, from making pedestrian walkways safer to minimizing pollution with underground parking. 

The city’s forthcoming “Walk Cycle Ride” program integrates walking and biking with using trains and buses in everyday commutes. It is aimed to help lower emissions, promote an active lifestyle and foster human-centric public spaces without compromising business efficiency.

Public housing is not only a right for all residents but also an ongoing experiment in improving community liveability, sustainability and growth. 

With thirty years of citizen-oriented planning under its belt, Medellin was using inventive techniques to improve citizens' lives far before “smart cities” was a buzzword. 

In the early 2000s, gondola lines were created to alleviate the commute for inhabitants of the city’s surrounding mountains. Outdoor escalators were eventually added to increase mobility further. 

To fight poverty and violence city kept kids off the streets by investing in education and green public spaces, including the Spanish Library Park, which is now a major tourist destination.     

As restricted access to WiFi in the city’s mountains slowed down digital development, the city installed 150 free WiFi zones and 500 free computers, later adding city-sponsored online programs to educate expectant mothers and allow them to book healthcare appointments.


Starting January 2020, Angers will embark on a journey to become one of France’s first bonafide smart cities. The municipality will leverage ENGIE’s latest technologies to give its residents a greener, more efficient hometown.  


By using ENGIE’s smart-city administration platform Livin', Angers will be able to both improve the management of existing infrastructure and simulate different solutions to various urban challenges.

The city hopes to save 66% of the energy used for public lighting by 2025, and lower the energy consumption of buildings by 20%.  

New technologies include motion-detection street lamps that light up when cars and pedestrians pass by and water sensors that will allow for better waste and sanitation management.   

The costs saved by optimizing public services and cutting energy spending will create more funds that can be put back into the community.

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