Study: Smart cities need to prioritise people's needs, not technology

Building a smart city requires technology, but prioritising technology over people could undermine effectiveness, according to a recent study.

Real estate consultant JLL has released the study titled "Smart Cities Success: Connecting people, proptech and real estate". In the report, JLL defined a smart city as a set of policies and strategies using technology and data to deliver initiatives that improve inclusiveness, services, and quality of life for the people who live there. Smart cities should drive efficiency, sustainability, and improved decision making for their government, as well as creating a transparent, efficient, and competitive environment for businesses.

The report has highlighted that the construction phase presents many opportunities to use technology in ways that drive productivity and increase worker safety. Furthermore, if the real estate industry catches up in terms of technology, it could bridge the gap between smart city solutions and the physical spaces where people live, work, and play.

“Cities are unleashing technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and AI to solve some of the pressing problems of urbanisation – whether it’s traffic or waste disposal or public safety," said Jeremy Kelly, director of global research of JLL.

"This has the potential to change the way we live and work, as well as how we interact with the buildings and infrastructure in our cities. These innovations hold particular promise in Asia-Pacific where city populations are growing rapidly,” he added.

Currently, though more than 1,000 smart city initiatives have been announced around the world, only 15 have a comprehensive strategy that includes detailed targets. Of these, only eight offer concrete plans ready for implementation.

Speaking of the reasons for the slow take-off of smart city projects, the report has unveiled a key problem: bureaucracy. As cities are large and complex, smart city initiatives can succeed only if governments are open to experimentation and willing to invest time and resources in learning from missteps.

"To fulfil the promise of smart cities, we must start focusing less on the technology and more on how to use it to make lives better for people. We believe real estate can be a connector between the people who are the lifeblood of cities and the digital infrastructure that is increasingly powering our urban environments," said Kelly.

Last but not least, the report has reminded the real estate industry that smart cities have to improve inclusivity, services, and quality of life for people. For example, houses and aged care facilities can be equipped with sensors, visual analytics and connected medical devices to improve overall safety, meaning that technology could benefit people's everyday lives.