Smart City 3.0: A sustainable and smarter future

December 15, 2017 15:56
In the era of smart city, how do we strike a balance between conservation and development? Can we improve our quality of life without undermining our future? Photo: AFP

I have just published my new book, Smart City 3.0, which illustrates how young people can seize the opportunity to create their own future.

I was privileged to have two heavyweights in my field – geographic information systems (GIS) – to write me prefaces.

The first one is Jack Dangermond, founder and president of Esri, which is among the top 50 software companies in the world. Jack, 72, is my mentor and friend. He established the GIS software company Environmental Systems Research Institute (also known as Esri) in 1969. Today, the company has 350,000 clients ranging from public and private organizations to governments worldwide. Each day, Esri creates 150 million new maps.

Jack found that “while urbanization had become the megatrend, critical natural resources, such as water, clean air, and landscape, were being jeopardized”. Therefore, creating a “greener infrastructure to compensate for the grey, man-made infrastructure” becomes a main theme of “smart growth”.

GIS enables “a collection of different layers and datasets, from transportation and terrain to water and vegetation,” be overlaid to “help forward-thinking organizations, from all levels of government, nongovernmental organizations, nonprofits, and the public, institute for establishing policies and procedures in guiding conservation and development efforts, and at the same time maintain constant awareness of community’s aspirations, and stay connected with all stakeholders”.

The second one is Professor Anthony Yeh who has long been a GIS leader in the industry. He is the chair professor in Urban Planning and Design at the Department of Urban Planning and Design of The University of Hong Kong.

In Prof. Yeh’s preface, he briefly led us through the history of smart city – “it evolves from the early days of digital cities when we have LAN and gradually developed to intelligent cities when we have the internet”. When WiFi and smartphone became popular, “digital cities and intelligent cities became smart cities”.

As a result, “with the further advancement of information and communication technologies, and Internet of Things, smart cities will become smarter and smarter, affecting individuals, governments, firms, and the environment. It will bring convenience and better quality of life to people living in cities.”

Both Mr. Dangermond and Prof. Yeh thought the trend of smart city would become “smart sustainable cities” with “sustainable development already well embedded in the development and planning of cities”, just “like sustainable cities in the 1990s and 2000s”.

In the era of smart city, how do we strike a balance between conservation and development? Can we improve our quality of life without undermining our future? With Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, robotics, sharing economy, etc., shaping a new phase of development for the smart city, I hope to inspire the younger and older generations to design, create and plan for a more sustainable future and a smarter world together.

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Adjunct Professor, Department of Computer Science, Faculty of Engineering; Department of Geography, Faculty of Social Sciences; and Faculty of Architecture, The University of Hong Kong